My view of leaders and leadership has evolved over time. I have soaked in the philosophies and perspectives of many people. They include but are certainly not limited to Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Stephen Covey, Jon Kotter, Jim Collins, Dr. Seuss. And, all the leaders who crossed my path and modeled the essence of leadership. 

My advice for you—read and learn from many teachers.  At the end of the day, form your own theory. Create your unique version of you as a leader.

Following a conference presentation on leadership and engagement, a participant came up to me.

“You gave a definition for engagement and you explained the role of leadership in engaging employees, but you never defined leadership. Leadership can mean different things to different people.” 

There was no denying his statement. I assumed leadership meant the same to everyone.

You may agree or disagree. I have a simple definition of a leader—someone I choose to follow.

The details come in what I expect of the people I consider leaders. These leaders may not have the position of CEO, but they inspire me to commit my very best to accomplish a goal—with excellence.

What do I look for in a leader? 

Here are the seven characteristics I look for in the people I follow and trust.

  1. Exemplifies integrity 
    They are clear about what they will not compromise
  2. Communicates and clarifies the mission
    I want a leader who makes the mission clear. She paints a vivid picture of the future so I understand why we do this work. She never says, “I’ll know it when I see it.” Well, if you can’t see it, I can’t help you achieve it.
  3. Models personal and organizational values
    Great leaders model their personal values and organizational beliefs. Every action reflects those beliefs consistently and over time
  4. Builds relationships
    I am someone. The leader takes the time to know me, our customers, and stakeholders.
  5. Demonstrates transparency
    Tells the truth—always.
  6. Initiates rather than reacts
    He is persistent in the goal and resistant to criticism and is willing to challenge the status quo.
  7. Accepts accountability
    A leader worth following takes responsibility for actions. She does not blame others and can admit when she is wrong. When there are barriers to our work, she removes them to help us achieve our goals.

What do you look for in a leader? How do you develop those skills in yourself and others?

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

Photo: © Kathryn LeRoy