So often, leadership is perceived to be "good leadership" if it gets things done and makes things happen. We tend to think good leaders are those who take charge and take action! And while there is something to be said about effectiveness and efficiency, if those are our only metrics for leadership we run the risk of creating leaders who carry out great plans but don't care for people along the way.
I have a growing conviction that there's another side to leadership that is all too often neglected. And with this alternative paradigm of leadership, there are different metrics that help determine what good leadership looks like. Therefore, I would submit that a good leader does three things.
1. Cultivate Unity - No doubt on your team you'll have people who have different perspectives, opinions, and ideas about what should be done. And if you have good people on your team they will be passionate about their ideas and will, therefore, fight for them. If left unchecked this can cause divisions, fractions, posturing, and power plays amongst members of your team. The responsibility of a good leader is to recognize moments when potential hostility is brewing and call people to unity.
In order to call people to unity, you first have to raise the question, unity around what? Unity around the concept of being a team? The best idea? The notion of being peace-makers?
No. It's a call to unity around the larger vision and mission of your organization and team. When we lose sight of the vision and mission, we start serving ourselves rather than the larger vision. But for individuals to be united around the larger vision, they must practice humility. They must relinquish the desire to win, be right, or have their ideas implemented. Therefore, it's important for good leaders to...
2. Demonstrate Humility - If a leader expects their team to practice humility, they must be willing to model it. As a leader, there can be pressure (often times self-imposed) to have all the answers and know exactly what to do all the time. However, I find that the most respected leaders are those who freely use the three-word phrase, "I don't know." And then, quickly engage others to share what they think.
The role of a leader isn't to be the best member of the team, the smartest, or the most efficient. Really great leaders are those who look for those who are better, smarter, and more efficient than they are, and then turn those people loose to accomplish what they can do better than anyone else on the team.
Another piece to practicing humility is sharing the credit and accolades. As a leader, it's crucial to celebrate the wins of others on your team so that they know how important and valued they are. Truly great leaders share the credit rather than seeking the glory for themselves.
3. Lead with Vulnerability - This last one is closely associated with number two but is also a bit different. While humility may look like not having all the answers, sharing the credit, and celebrating your team, vulnerability looks more like owning up to your shortcomings and mistakes.
Many of us have probably worked on a team with a leader who could never admit their mistakes, even when their mistake is obvious to the rest of the team. In situations where the leader tries to pass the buck, make an excuse, or explain away why it wasn't their fault, it subtly undermines the trust and respect that the team members have for their leader.
In my experience, whenever a team leader is quick to admit their mistakes and shortcomings it exponentially increases the trust and respect that team members have for their leader. When a leader models vulnerability, in turn, they are also modeling humility and giving permission to their team members to do the same.
Leading from this posture might feel a bit uncomfortable and awkward, but it has the ability to create a healthy team culture that fuels people's desire to work on your team.
I guess the question is, what kind of leader do you want to be?