What is True Leadership?
True leaders serve others.
The boss is willing to forego personal gain for the betterment of his employer and the community. He quietly pursues results. He does not seek praise; he earns it. A leader sets a high standard and actions speak louder than words. The boss gets in early, works hard all day and stays late to make sure everything is done right.
Business is more than money. It’s about relationships. The loathsome employer may be right, but he is not fun to work for if he exhibits reprehensible behavior. I remember one employer told me, “We want to work with people we like.”
Smart leaders match employees’ skills to available needs in the workplace.
A strong leader cherishes employees’ hard work and sincerely praises individual and collective achievement.
One of my favorite leaders was a newsroom manager who empowered others to grow in their skills and obtain higher levels of responsibility and achievement. Her praise and criticism were fair, sincere and inspiring. I would work for her again in a minute.
Wise leaders know the best deals (and really the only good deals) are a win-win for each party.
One manager taught me to under promise and over deliver. Customers will be loyal to you for your extra effort.
Effective leaders are tough-minded and stubborn when they know they are right.
They will say, “No” to the wrong deal 20 times if necessary to save the company. Former Capitol Federal Savings Chairman and CEO John “Jack” Dicus was approached about investing in no-document loans. Dicus refused because such loans did not verify income to pay for the loans. By saying no, Dicus, now chairman emeritus, prevented the bank from suffering losses. He upheld high lending standards with a focus on the single-family, owner-occupied mortgage business. As a result, Capitol Federal Savings has weathered several national financial crises in the past 35 years and prospered.
Good leaders know what really matters.
One time a railroad leader was about to speak at a press conference, but suddenly was taken away due to a pressing phone call. Some reporters were miffed that they had to wait another 15 minutes. I found out later the railroad executive was talking to a person who had just lost a loved one on the job. The leader was right; reporters can wait. A sincere act of kindness will be remembered forever.
Good leaders are ethical and trustworthy.
There is not a lie in them. They are able to take criticism, fix problems and move on quickly and efficiently.
Exceptional leaders are visionary.
They can see and evaluate market conditions and make wise decisions. A smart leader is keenly aware of his weaknesses and won’t let pride ruin his judgment. He can let a marginal idea die and move on.
Quality leaders surround themselves with trusted colleagues who are willing to discuss an idea without fear.
They are willing to hear all sides — pros and cons — about whether to pursue a certain objective. They want the truth, and debate polishes truth. A democratic leadership team that encourages employee participation creates better results.