Leadership qualities – more about character than position

Be it in our government offices, our educational institutions, the places we work or even in our own homes, each day we’re presented with actors who think they’re portraying the role of a “successful leader”. The reality is that title exists in name only.

Society is filled with two types of people: those who lead and those who simply “boss” people around. Sound familiar?

There is a fine line between the two and as most of us come to realize as we journey through life, there seems to be more of the later.

Leaders are not successful because of the skills they possess, but rather for the trust and respect they gain from others. These skills are not easily attained from a text book, seminar or through bullying techniques often adopted by leaders who have no business leading a gaggle of ducks let alone people.

I’d like to share some inspiring quotes I’ve gathered about leadership, and a few of my personal thoughts on the matter as well:

1. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Ronald Reagan

A successful leader understands the importance of building their team with individuals who are not only highly skilled in their craft, but also people of character. A successful leader is not self-serving, but rather more interested in inspiring their team to greatness through motivation, inspiration and encouragement. So many leaders hire individuals with “weak” personalities – which allows them to feel dominant over their team and their ideas.

2. “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

Successful leaders have a firm understanding that if you desire your team to behavior in a certain way, then you need to lead by example. Far too often leaders fail to realize how important it is to practice what you preach. They neglect to realize how perceptions are being formed by those they lead, and more often than not their behaviors will parallel that of your own.

3. “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

One of the main reasons that leaders enjoy the title of “leader” is for the power and financial rewards that come along with it. If that is the only reason why you’re aspiring for such a position, stop right now. I can already conclude that you’ll be an awful leader. Successful leaders completely understand there’s no place for personal ego in this role. Rather, you crave the opportunity to impart your wisdom on a new generation – shaping their abilities, building their character and securing their work ethics in order to create a more valuable member of society.

4. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Theodore Roosevelt

Similar to #1, one of the greatest downfalls a so-called “leader” can make is their inability to trust the team members they hire. Successful leaders understand that while they are “managing” the process, that doesn’t mean they should be “controlling” everything and everyone. That is perhaps the most common mistake amongst leaders – they flex their control muscles more than they are necessary because they simply DO NOT TRUST the team members they hire.

5. “There is a difference between being a leader and being a boss. Both are based on authority. A boss demands blind obedience; a leader earns his authority through understanding and trust.” Klaus Balkenhol

See #’s 1 and 4 – I think they about sum it up!

6. “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” John Maxwell

I ended with this one purposely as I believe it’s one of the most important traits of a successful leader – humility. A leader should always be there to support their team – to defend and shield when necessary. However, many so-called leaders utilize their team members to make themselves look better. They take credit for ideas that often aren’t their own, they blame them for mistakes and talk behind their backs. In short, they’re more concerned with the perception of their own personal success than how successful they are as a leader.

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for those who truly know how to lead, and consider myself fortunate to have encountered many during my lifetime. I say thank you to all those individuals for helping to encourage and grow legions of followers.

However, I hold great contempt for those who profess to be great leaders, yet have no idea what it means to truly lead. With any luck they’ll stumble upon this article and learn a little something. I certainly have.