Leadership as a skill is in short supply. The characteristics of a good leader in my opinion are;
- Ability to listen.
- A willingness to delegate.
- A desire to give others credit.
Not on my list of leadership qualities are having firm and fixed opinion, being right all the time, being in control, or needing to get one’s way. Those can be signs of weakness, and when they are used to hurt people, they become cruelty. A certain American politician comes to my mind when I think about these qualities.
Listening is not a passive exercise as it takes self-discipline and a strong intention. It means paying attention, listening to the words, the spaces between and behind the words. Poor listeners are thinking about what to say next and only listen long enough before they start speaking again.
People who feel passionately about an issue present their perspectives through the filter of strong emotion – tears, shouting, posturing. Perhaps counterintuitively rather than dismiss the emotion an empathetic leader deals directly with emotion and recognises and validates it. This approach to listening models great respect for different belief and generates an understanding and a tolerance for the position others hold.
Poor listeners are inevitably weak leaders that prefer to give directions and surround themselves with agreeable voices.
Delegation allows us to share in the strength of others. Mistakes should not be feared; they can be corrected, and lessons can be learned What drags an organisation down is listless, unimaginative people who are frightened to take the initiative.
To get ahead in an organisation, it is seen as necessary to be considered as breaking out from the pack. Creating the big deal, solving the big problem, possessing the best resume, always being smart and confident.
The stars don’t necessary make the transition into leadership. The psychological need for approval, for specialness, for perfection and control need to be tempered with the need to see others grow and take flight.
Leadership requires self-discipline that hard for most people to attain. The self-discipline is needed in not retreating behind a position but in being able to identify areas of agreement.