Doing Leadership

Many definitions of leadership include a phrase about process or action. Many leadership trainers authors and leadership gurus talk about the qualities of leaders. They discuss the importance of integrity, decisiveness, knowledge of people, processes, candor and character. What all of these boil down to however is action. The U.S. Army uses three words in its leadership doctrine, “Be, Know, Do”. Of these, doing is the most important is Do.

Emanuel_Leutze_(American,_Schwäbisch_Gmünd_1816–1868_Washington,_D.C.)_-_Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_-_Google_Art_ProjectSteven Covey talks about emotional bank accounts in his books and blogs. He teaches that behavior results in either a deposit or a withdrawal into the account of another. The more deposits, the greater the credit and influence. An old friend, Gerry Berry, often noted that people always make time to do what they really believe is important. What we do, repeated over time becomes who we are.

Descriptions of good leaders include words like honest, decisive, loyal, serving, respectful and smart. Some say these traits describe the leader must be. To become those things you must do those things. To be considered honest, one must act truthful in word and deed. A loyal person stands behind, beside or in front of the one they are loyal to depending on the need. As one repeats these behaviors, one eventually becomes known as an honest person or respectful or loyal, but only through repeated behavior, action, doing.

In a recent leader seminar I attended, we discussed the trait of caring. One leader stood and shared a story of how he regularly learned about and addressed the needs of those who worked for him. He commented that he really did not care about most of the problems, but took notes and set reminders in his calendar to check back with each one on the progress of the problem. He made referrals and ensured junior leaders helped employees navigate available services. He commented he felt like he was faking it. When he was promoted out of his job, he was surprised the employees characterized him as a caring leader.

The reality is this leader may not have felt an emotional bond with his followers problems, but he did things to ensure their needs were met. Yes he used tools like calendars and notebooks to remind him of employee issues. These actions showed he cared. He could easily have told everyone he would help, that he cared, then forget. He showed them he cared by doing what he did, taking action.

Leaders know lots of things. One only gains knowledge by learning. Learning again is an action one does. There are generally three ways to learn. One is through a formal education system. Another is through self-development. The third is through experience. Learning requires action, doing.

So you want to be a leader. If you accept that leadership is a process then you understand that leadership is action. When you repeat certain behaviors, those behaviors become your character, a character of action. When you attend classes, read books and accept stretch assignments you learn, knowledge of action. If we study the leadership doctrine of, “Be, Know, Do,” understand the greatest of these is Do. What are you going to do today to do leadership?

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Image credit:  “Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) – Washington Crossing the Delaware – Google Art Project” by Emanuel Leutze (German-American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) (1816 – 1868) (Artist, Details of artist on Google Art Project) – KAHKUjVORM5STw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emanuel_Leutze_(American,_Schw%C3%A4bisch_Gm%C3%BCnd_1816%E2%80%931868_Washington,_D.C.)_-_Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Emanuel_Leutze_(American,_Schw%C3%A4bisch_Gm%C3%BCnd_1816%E2%80%931868_Washington,_D.C.)_-_Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Two Things Leaders Care About

Funny thing about leaders…even when they lack a title, they still influence others to become better people and improve their organizations. Former followers seek out the leader months and years after their formal leader-led relationship ends. The best leaders often find themselves providing purpose, direction and motivation to former followers who have exceeded the leaders success. Identifying everything that goes into long-term leader-follower relationship can and has filled many pages. This blog will hardly scratch the surface and instead of providing proven, empirical data about the qualities of great leaders, it seeks to encourage readers to evaluate their own leader-follower relationships to identify ways you each can become better, non-titled leaders.

There are two areas that great leaders concern themselves; caring for people and achieving results. They know that in order to make the organization successful, they need quality people who are dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and motivated. The leader communicates the organizational goals and his or her vision for the future and turns the followers loose to use their skills and abilities to accomplish great things that move the organization in the direction of success. Once success is achieved however, the leader sets a new course, but only after acknowledging the work and sacrifices of those who followed. Along the way, the leader creates opportunities to become familiar with employees, their families, their dreams and hopes, their needs. The leader develops ways for his followers to align their personal aspirations for growth with the growth of the organization. As the organization achieves success, so does the employee encouraging greater dedication.

Each great leader develops her personal style to learn about their followers and to communicate how their desires and abilities intertwine with those of the organization. Some leaders throw parties for their employees on their birthdays. Others use group training activities. Some dedicate a few moments each day to speak to their people and ask about important personal and professional issues. In every case, the interaction between the leader and follower is personalized in some way. The follower comes to believe the leader personally cares for them and their situation. If faked the facade quickly tumbles causing major problems for the organization.Image

After the American Civil War, Robert E Lee returned to the south to live a quite life. He was one of the best loved military commanders in the Nation’s history. Throughout the war he showed concern for his soldiers at all levels. For years after the war his followers sought him out for letters of reference, financial assistance and inspiration. It is said that he never refused a request of a veteran of his Army if he could fulfill it. Lee’s obligation to his men ceased the day he surrendered and dismissed the troops. His caring continued until he died.

Great leaders have two important concerns. Success of their organization and success of their people. They understand that unless the aspirations of employees are tied to the vision of the organization, neither will be truly successful. Leaders inspire their employees to succeed by learning their dreams, concerns and desires and find ways to align them with those of the vision and mission of the organization. When employees achieve success in their positions within the organization, the organization become more successful. Great leaders extend their influence long after formal relationships end because they genuinely care for the people they lead.

Photo Credit:  National Archives.  Retrieved from:  http: // www. flickr. com/photos/usnationalarchives/4176668765/sizes/o/in/photostream/ 10/29/13