Effective Leaders, Born or Made?
We’ve all heard the adage, Leaders are made, not born. How true that is! We only need to look at leaders in history to uncover that most came from humble roots and either through their belief system, perseverance or circumstances emerged as effective leaders.
Benjamin Franklin was number fifteen out of seventeen children, born to a poor candlemaker. He only had two years of formal education and left home in his late teens to begin his adult life. Disadvantaged? Yes, and his accomplishments still inspire others today. He was an author, an inventor, a thinker and a scientist. Franklin left a lasting mark as an influencer around the ethics and principles our country was founded upon. His signature is among others found on our treasured Declaration of Independence. Due in no small part to his humble beginnings, he valued challenging work and believed we all have an obligation to work hard to better our lives and communities.
Another great leader, Margaret Thatcher was the daughter of a grocer. She became the first woman to lead a major Western democracy and served as Prime Minister for more than eleven years. Her leadership revived Great Britain’s economy. Her courage affected outdated institutions and her energy brought life to foreign policy.
Recent inductees to our effective leaders list include a few from the world of sports and one a veteran commercial airline pilot. Tim Tebow, a former professional football player who now plays professional baseball has faced harsh criticism from the press and on social media. Tebow is known to freely speak about his Christian beliefs.
The highly visible Houston Texan player, JJ Watt, won the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2015. Watt has proven repeatedly that teamwork is a core value. His recent plea for help during the devastation Hurricane Harvey felt by south Texas netted over 37 million dollars. His generous efforts, earned him the coveted Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, was piloting Flight 1549 when on live television many of us watched him safely land in the Hudson River, averting a disaster that could have killed 155 passengers. In 2010, Sully was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. "I am truly honored to be in this company of heroes," Sullenberger said. To be recognized by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society was "almost beyond belief. I don't think what I have done rises to the threshold of what they have done," he said.
The leaders mentioned above, and countless more not mentioned, worked at getting the ability to recognize and seize upon an opportunity. Through good times and bad, they learned to choose actions that would help others on the job, create a better home life and be of service.
Effective leaders are ones that serve those entrusted to their guidance and supervision. They are not looking for glory and honor, but instead are generous with serving others. If you want to walk the walk and talk the talk of a respected leader, you will want to check out these thought-provoking subjects.
Share authority while recognizing your limitations. Give credit to others and seek advice and wisdom from them.
Remember, you do not have all the answers, often the people doing the job will best know how to improve work processes and outcomes. Explore advice from all levels within your organization, not just those seen as important or higher-up the food chain.
Find a mentor or coach and learn to practice self-evaluation. Embrace personal improvement and never be boastful.
Not much happens without a dream, so why not dream big? You must first visualize a dream to bring it to fruition. What’s that awesome, audacious goal that you would like to accomplish in your career? What about the people you lead? Do you know their biggest dream? Effective leaders encourage and help others achieve dreams and goals.
Invites and Seeks Feedback
Routinely seek feedback about your choices and behaviors to stay clear of blind spots. Be respectfully honest with others and ask for the same in return.
Stay mindful that everyone needs feedback to achieve goals and to do their best at all levels within your organization. Be appreciative to those that share openly and honestly, knowing this is the path to continuous improvement.
A common thread among admired leaders is humility. Displaying humbleness and courtesy to others is a quality that is always well-received. Leaders that can share the limelight of their success with their team while shouldering the burden when mistakes happen will always be a standout. Be quick to put the spotlight on those that make significant contributions.
Developing sincere humility is a process, not something achieved overnight. Trust others, celebrating them, being thankful, forgiving easily, building others up are all attributes of a humble leader. Humility will mean not falling for your own “press” and investigate practicing servant leadership. The first step to becoming a servant leader is to check out your mindset. A servant leader will surrender the belief that employees work for you. Instead, they work for the organization and themselves. Leaders that gain knowledge and put energy into the servant leader philosophy will be highly trusted and not have to misuse their power to get things done.
Scratched the Surface
This article just scratched the surface for what it means to lead effectively. Ask yourself these tough questions.
Am I ready to make the most of my influence? How quickly will I revert to power and control if things do not go my way? Where am I with my professional maturity…do I have a reputation for overreacting or dodging difficult conversations?
Becoming an effective leader is a journey, stay on the path. You will never arrive, but you will be headed in the right direction.