Leadership is a topic we often think about when it comes to our governments, our business leaders, and our role models. And almost everyone can agree – both leadership and leadership development are really important. How leaders act and behave can have enormous consequences in the world from both a micro and macro perspective.
But what really is the basis of leadership? Is it about our title or position? In my research, leadership is based on the idea of “influence”, no matter what level you are at. We influence ourselves, either in helpful way or unhelpful ways. We influence others, and vice-versa (positively or negatively). From this perspective we are all leaders, whether it’s of our households, families, organizations, businesses – you name it!
3 Leadership Lessons We Should All Keep In Mind
- It’s about “we” not “me”
In his book, Mentoring 101, renowned leadership coach John Maxwell describes two types of leaders – the first leader is one who attracts other leaders, wants to share power, be succeeded, and focuses on the strengths of others. The second type of leader is one who attracts followers. They want to be needed, want recognition, want to hold onto power, and focus on the weaknesses of others.
An ideal leader, he describes, is the first, the one who empowers and enables those around him to become leaders in their own right, vs. controlling them in becoming his or her “followers”.
As simple as it may sound, this perspective shift is quite revolutionary. How many of us leading are truly looking to serve and empower those around us to new heights?
Whenever we are in a position of influencing others, we can use this perspective as an intention check.
Ask yourself – What are my intentions and motives in leading this person, organization, etc.? Am I looking to control, to enhance my personal (perhaps secret) agenda, or am I genuinely curious about the experience and thoughts of the individual(s) I am leading? Often and naturally, we can have both selfish and selfness agendas at that same time. Most of us are likely not 100% selfless. However, it’s important to keep in mind where we can be hurting ourselves and our constituents as leaders through the excess focus on ourselves.
Over the last two decades, the term “servant leadership” has really come forth as a paradigm shift for leaders – this concept is based the idea that leaders are accountable to and inspired by serving their constituents.
- True leaders make sacrifices
Following in line with the idea of servant leadership, true leaders are ready to make sacrifices for their team. It’s not just about them individually or their business/organization – true leaders recognize when their team wins, everyone wins. An example of this in application is of Marriot International in 2001. During the 9/11 terror attacks, Marriot, as one of the largest hotel chains in the world, went from an occupancy rate of 75% to 5% overnight. The easy answer to deal with the lack of income would be massive layoffs of the staff. However, the company believed that putting people first is absolutely vital to both their staff and their business. Thus, instead of massive layoffs, they set in place education programs, kept health benefits, and did what they could to come through the crisis with minimal negative impact.
- True leaders utilize empathy and compassion versus fear and control
The days of “command and control” are going away (albeit slowly in some cases). New generations and new thinking are demanding leaders and organizations to re-think the idea of maximizing profits and self-interest at all costs.
The generations of the future are demanding companies and organizations to think about sustainable practices, the environment, workforce treatment, and the social implications of their actions, just to name a few. In fact, consumers are voting with their wallets – buying products from and investing in companies and organizations that are keeping by this core principle. As such, to even survive as an organization today, I would argue that leaders need to invest in their empathy skills in order to really listen to what their investors and consumers want. How? Active listening is absolutely core to empathy – really understanding what the consumers want and how the company can deliver. I believe the skill of empathy and creating cultures around these core values will dictate which companies survive and thrive going forward.
All in all, leadership is a tall mantle. But with great power comes great responsibility. Thus, in our lives, whether it be in our organizations, families, businesses, and in the world, these 3 key leadership development principles stand out as time-tested ways to influence for a more sustainable and healthier world.