So much is written about leadership! Qualities of leaders. Traits of leaders. It’s all interesting, to be sure. But, at the end of the day, you may be thinking: If you want to be a leader, what should you do?
There is wisdom to be found in the old saying “I’ll know it when I see it.” In other words, what do we see actual leaders doing?
The good news for students of leadership is that there are real life lessons all around us, each and every day. Take President Obama for example. He acknowledged the other day that he and the Dems took a shellacking in the mid-term election of November 2. He went on to say about leadership that:
“…leadership is not just legislation…it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand.”
His main point (and his learning) was that his message did not get through.
Looking at his statement, it seems he is talking, at least in part, about engaging people. But real engagement is not just persuasively arguing people into agreement.
For all his intelligence and excellence as a speaker, our president does not seem to get something fundamental about authentically engaging others: it’s a two-way street. It’s collaborative. And each party influences the other.
So, inspired by this real life story, here are three things that leaders do…that you can start doing today.
1. Leaders ask for input – Leaders know that power is not in position. Rather, power is in posture. And the most powerful posture is humility. An open and receptive posture that invites and welcomes many voices and perspectives. “What are your thoughts?” is a positive power play with real potential. So, leaders actively seek the ideas of their team members. “What do you guys think we should do?” is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader. Quite the contrary. It’s brilliance. Leaders ask for help. Leaders listen. And, in so doing, they engage and empower others.
2. Leaders seek wisdom before they take action – Leaders take action based on what they believe is wise, that is, the right course for the right reasons. Where do they find this wisdom? While leaders often have good ideas, even the smartest know that they don’t have all the ideas. There may be even better ideas out there among their constituents. The leader that seeks the wisdom of the people in the system is indeed a wise one.
3. Leaders learn and change – Leaders are agents of change. And all change starts with the man or woman in the mirror. The Self. In the face of an overwhelming message such as the mid-term election results on November 2, the wise leader would take a long and honest look in the mirror. And resolve to make the necessary changes in himself.
So, if you are thinking about being a leader at work or outside of work, start acting like a leader.
Posted originally on HR Blognotions by Terrence Seamon on November 5, 2010. For more on leadership, listening, wisdom, and change, invite Terry to your organization.