If people are the ultimate source of competitive advantage (and they are), then leadership is an essential skill that organizations must master. The performance of a company and its people is directly connected to leadership skills. Here are eight principles that every leader, at every level, should know.
1. Great leadership begins with the person, not the position.
Before you can lead others, you must first manage yourself. Leadership is not so much a position you hold as it is a set of disciplines and behaviors you practice, the first and most fundamental of which is self-discipline. A leader without self-discipline is a disaster waiting to happen.
2. Great leadership is about your level of influence, not your level of authority.
People follow the leader first and the vision second. If people aren’t committed to you, they will not be committed to the vision you communicate. Always seek to have your level of influence exceed your level of authority. Indeed, your influence is your authority. You establish your personal credibility and authority by consistently living your core values and demonstrating that you are a person others can trust. Become a person other people want to follow.
3. Great leaders are as good at listening as they are at communicating.
People want their leaders to listen. Leaders don’t have to agree, but they do need to listen and seek to understand. People want to be understood at two levels: intellectual and emotional. At the intellectual level people want the leader to understand what they are saying. At the emotional level people want the leader to understand what they are feeling. Again, listening is not about agreeing with people. It is about respecting them and paying attention to them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
4. Great leadership is about wisdom, not intelligence.
There are plenty of smart people in positions of leadership. What we need are wise leaders. Our world has an over-abundance of information, but we have a scarcity of real wisdom. Wise leaders have insight, that is, they see beyond the obvious. Why? Because they are looking!
5. Before you can lead, you must first learn to follow.
Great leaders are great followers. They are humble. They do not always need to be in charge. They understand the impact of great followership. If you don’t understand the dynamics of following, then you don’t understand the dynamics of leading. Many people in positions of authority are ineffective leaders precisely because they are not good followers.
6. Great leaders create stability and drive change.
Effective leaders build and maintain a changeless core. From that foundation they drive continuous change and improvement. The changeless core is a deep, unwavering commitment to shared values that gives people meaning and identity beyond their role in the organization and beyond the circumstances the organization or its people may be facing. The commitment to continuous change derives from the leader’s recognition that success requires constant adjustment and continuous improvement. Today’s world deals ruthlessly with people and organizations who fail to adapt and change.
7. Great leaders use their power by giving it to others.
Effective leaders are a source of power and energy for people, teams, and the organization. They encourage the heart. They understand that power is not a zero-sum game. The more a leader empowers others, the stronger and more effective the leader and the team become.
8. Effective leadership requires courage. Lots of courage.
Courage comes from cor, which is the Latin word for heart. Courage means “strength of heart.” It takes great courage—that is, strength of heart—to be a great leader.