In last week’s column, I summarized how Alex and I uncovered nine roots of effective leadership.
As a reminder, we looked back at our own work experience and what we’d learned as employees. We peeked into each other’s libraries. We counseled opinions from some folks who were held up to be great examples of leaders from all walks of life. We categorized our findings into perceptions and behaviors of great leaders. We then sub-divided our findings into two further categories — managing self and influencing others.
I’m not suggesting we’ve uncovered any great mountaintop mystery but, rather, I believe these are common-sense attributes of great leaders that sadly are not commonly practiced by those who have been given the noble, honorable responsibility to lead others.
So, what did we discover? Here is what we found to be the first four roots that help us manage ourselves: Self-control, solution-minded, focused and balanced.
Leaders must exhibit self-control. What’s that line from Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Many leaders have fallen from grace due to a lack of self-control. No one wants to be led by a negative naysayer and, therefore, great leaders tend to be problem solvers. Time is such a precious commodity and effective leaders have nurtured habits to keep themselves focused on achieving the organization’s highest priorities.
Our studies suggested that great leaders are balanced — they understand the vital importance of investing in relationships back at home and to have interests outside of work. The “all-work-and-no-play” approach is just not healthy or sustainable.
Alex and I also found it very interesting as we were categorizing our findings in the second grouping (influencing others) — each item was others-centered. It seemed that truly effective leaders genuinely cared about other people. The next four roots were service to others, belief in others, kindness to others and to celebrate the success of others.
Great leaders tend to see their role as being of service to others — it’s as if they turn the organizational pyramid upside-down and use their explicit, formal authority to clear the path for their direct reports and staff to serve customers exceptionally well. Effective leaders believe in other people — we all know someone who believed in us more than we believed in ourselves — and because of that belief in us, we rose to the occasion and grew.
Leadership often has to deal with tough issues and it’s at this time that a leader’s mettle is tested. Great leaders exhibit kindness to others regardless of whether it’s a customer, vendor or employee — even during the most challenging times.
Mediocre managers do not want to celebrate the success of others. Why? Well, their lack of character and competence doesn’t want others to look good. Conversely, effective leaders want to shine the light on the wonderful work of others. Yes, they know that what you reward gets repeated, but they are just so genuinely others-centered they’re truly delighted when others succeed.
So, what about the ninth root? We repeatedly found reference to the word “humility” in our working papers. I boldly and authoritatively stated that humility should be categorized within the managing-self section. Alex wasn’t quite sure but I managed to emphatically influence him that I was right about humility!
It wasn’t until we took our outline to Sara, a young graphic designer just starting out on her own, that I began to see it differently.
I was aghast, dare I say a tad annoyed, when we saw the first drafts of the model: Sara had the audacity of ignoring my clear instructions and she’d wrapped the word “humility” around the eight roots. I, of course, immediately corrected her. She politely interrupted me and said, “Dude, I just thought that it’s necessary to have humility to sustain this level of effectiveness over time. I mean, if you don’t have humility to apologize when you mess up, how can you maintain self-control?”
Once I got over Sara calling me “dude,” I could see her point.
And, so, that’s why humility as the ninth root in our model surrounds the other eight. I learned my lesson in humility from Sara. Feel free to email me if you’d like a copy of Sara’s design.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.