Here are three scenarios that set up the distinction between REAL leaders and those in title/pay grade only.
(1) As the dialing-for-dollars starts with the upcoming U.S. elections, one sits back and looks in amazement at the shrill voices, the accusations, and the pettiness among far too many seeking the highest position in this country. One tries to undermine the other, while special interest groups (named and unnamed- thanks to Citizens United) wave fists full of greenbacks.
(2) George Smyth (his name made up to prevent identification) heads up the human resource function of a large company. In George’s last meeting with the CEO, he was informed that the new merger would require him to inform a significant number of employees that their tenure was ended. George asked for an explanation of what this new company would look like and what skills might be over-lapping. The CEO said George was not entitled to that information and only the senior leaders in the executive committee could be privy to future plans.
(3) Mary is the Director of Nursing for a major metropolitan hospital. In the face of the Affordable Care Act and a dramatic increase in patient load-without any increase in funding, Mary hears the nurses complaining to each other and the patients. She has set up a rotation to talk to each group on all shifts and seek their input on how to turn a negative situation into a chance for creating needed change, new processes, and better teams.
REAL LEADERS are hallmarked by the following:
Real leaders don’t seek scapegoats and find it wasted energy to play the blame game. Real leaders create a compelling vision of what the future can look like for the greatest number of followers. Real leaders ask those followers how to bring the future into reality and they operate from a place of transparency and ethics. Bogus leaders, on the other hand, surround themselves with people who represent narrow interest and who can keep the leader in power. A real leader willingly steps aside when his work is done so that others have a chance to lead.
Real leaders are great communicators and forthright in their conversations. Knowledge is freely shared with all because real leaders know that in the absence of information, people will connect the dots in the most pathological way possible. If, for legal reasons information cannot be shared, a real leader lets people know the WHY behind limited data and keeps her promise to constantly update all as the situation changes. (A real leader also is personally and emotionally empathetic and vulnerable when painful steps must be taken with others.)
Real leaders are role models of resiliency and optimism. They encourage, solicit, and develop this attitude in others. Whining is short-lived. Winning is the mantra. By going out to others in small groups, a real leader becomes one of them and demonstrates a link with all. A real leader is not hung up on the past except as it is represented by core values and potent with meaning. Consider Pope Francis who has discarded all the past excesses and trappings of the papacy in order to live like the people he serves. That’s real leadership.
There is one final, bonus indication of a real leader versus a bogus one. Leadership comes from a place that troubles the heart. Real leaders believe they can make a difference, an improvement and they have emotional “skin” in the game. Authenticity and vulnerability radiate from the real leader.
So now the question remains: what kind of leader are you? Remember – it is not dependent upon your title.
This article is reprinted with permission.