When a leader isn’t leading, the people begin to drift. When someone isn’t running a department, leading an organization, or heading a family, then the following results are inevitable.
There is an old British television show, now found on YouTube, called TimeTeam where a group of eclectic archeologists go to historic sites, mostly in England, and dig to find what the area truly looked like back centuries ago. It’s a fascinating show. What does that have to do with leaders not leading? The short answer is, ultimately the same extinction that happened to the communities that TimeTeam investigates. Speaker and Author, John Maxwell says, “everything rises and falls on leadership” and that is the impact leadership has on an organization. Here are just a few of the tell-tale clues that a leader isn’t leading. Why they’re not leading is an entirely different story and we’ll discuss that another time.
- Production is reduced – Good leaders are creative and find ways to help others in their charge to become productive. A good leader sees different people differently and treats them appropriately. If the same incentive, challenge, encouragement worked for every person in every situation then you might not need leaders. It takes a leader to figure out what’s needed and to implement that solution.
- Conflicts are extended – One of the most vital roles of a leader is to resolve conflict. Without that clear leader, conflict lasts longer and always inflicts more damage. Leaders must always be ready to do what is necessary to do what it takes to help people resolve their conflicts.
- Morale becomes low – You could define morale as faith in the leader. When the leader doesn’t show the people lose faith and morale plummets. Napoleon said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.”
- Decisions are delayed – Typically a good leader makes the decision in a timely way or at least they help, they encourage others to make a decision. Maxwell says, “Not all good decision makers are leaders but all good leaders are decision-makers.
- Agendas are multiplied – When the leader isn’t clear or present, then the people begin to pursue their agendas. Teams need leadership to provide a unifying force. That unifying force creates a kind of synergy where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
- Success becomes difficult – Leadership comes into play even when you don’t want it to. An organization cannot function the same without strong leaders in each and every department throughout the organization.
When you think about what a good leader is, you might come up with this list of attributes: A good listener, enthusiasm, passion, shows appreciation, a visionary, role model, trusting, integrity, organized, knowledgeable, credibility, persuasive, charisma, team building, clarity of purpose, problem-solver, the attitude of service, lead by example, patience, willing to act without complete knowledge, understands followers, consistent, empowers other people, and adapts to change. These are the attributes that come up again and again when people are asked: “When you think of a leader, what are the characteristics of an ideal leader?”
Notice what the list contains. All of these characteristics relate to the human side of leadership. That’s interesting because I often hear people minimize this side of leadership with terms like “soft” or “touchy-feely.” Applying these characteristics requires more strength than not. You can’t get production until you get a relationship.
Notice what the list excludes. Absent from this list are characteristics such as stern, mean, serious, short-tempered, vindictive, tough, angry, harsh, punitive, controlling, violent, or ruthless. And that’s interesting because many popular representations of leadership emphasize at least one of these “hard” characteristics. These characteristics are the refuge of those who lack the strength (or the skills) to apply the human side of leadership. Many who exhibit these traits are relying solely on their title or position and that is the lowest level of leadership. It’s not leadership at all.
How about you? How would you rate yourself as a leader compared to the list of positive characteristics? If you were to survey the people who report to you, how would they describe your leadership? What is it like to sit across the desk from you? Would your people list characteristics from the “soft” list or the “hard” list? In what ways could you become more effective by improving upon any of the “soft” characteristics? And how about the other leaders in your organization? Do they truly maximize human potential?
People want leaders who treat them with genuine compassion, courtesy, and respect. They want leaders who help them become more successful. They want leaders who inspire them with a vision for a better world and show them how to go there. And that’s why John Maxwell says: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” You shouldn’t become extinct, you should thrive and to do that you should up your leadership game.