Leadership can come in a variety of forms. Some people lead by example, some good, some bad. Some individuals lead others from the front while others lead from behind. Some people think that their popularity from their peers is a type of leadership. There are leaders that lead their group with a laissez-faire type of attitude, while others are more autocratic and don’t listen to the opinions and thoughts of their charges. Then there are the people whose leadership characteristics shine the most in certain situations…whether they be good or bad.
Take some time and observe the picture of the wolf pack at the top of this blog. I would like you to notice a few interesting things about this photo…
The three wolves in front are old & sick, they walk in front to set the pace of the whole pack so they will never be left behind.
The next five are the strongest and best, their task is to protect the front side if there is an attack.
The five wolves at the tail of the group are also among the strongest; they are in charge to protect the backside from any possible threat.
The group in the middle is always protected from any attack.
The very last wolf is the LEADER, the Alpha. He ensures that no one is ever left behind, and he keeps the pack united on the same path. He controls everything from the rear. He can keep his eye on the pack and circumstance or happening that is currently taking place. The leader is the one who decides the direction of his flock and guides them where he wants them to go.
So, if anyone wanted to know what it really means to be a leader here is your answer. A true leader never leaves anyone behind but cares for each and every member of the “pack” laying the foundations of a society built upon humanity, care, and respect.
There is an old proverb that says that “Many hands make light work.” In other words, large tasks or jobs can become smaller and easier to accomplish when divided among many people. When people work together in a positive and encouraging environment, the sky really is the limit to the things that can be done. This is true for every work and job setting, the family unit, sports teams, etc. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” The important thing is that each member of the group feels important and that their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and contributions are important and worthwhile to their group.
There are times when as leaders, we need to take the time to encourage, inspire, and uplift the individuals that we are working with. A good leader will lead by example by working with their group, sometimes side by side and not in a dictatorship-type of role. Positive motivation and incentive are some of the biggest keys to healthy teamwork.
Today’s Story illustrates this concept of teamwork beautifully…
Many, many years ago, a man became lost while driving his car through the countryside. Foolishly, he tried to read his map as he was driving and soon drove off the road and landed in a ditch. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt but his car was securely stuck in some deep mud. He decided to look for help. After a short distance, he spotted a farmhouse and decided to ask someone for assistance.
The man soon met the farmer and told him of his predicament. Pointing out to his field, the farmer said, see that old mule out there? The man looked at the old, haggard and frayed mule then looked back to the farmer. The farmer said, “Yep, old Warwick there can do the job!”
The man shrugged his shoulders and thought to himself, I have nothing to lose, so the two men and Warwick made their way back to the ditch.
The farmer hitched up old Warwick to the car, snapped the reins and yelled out, “Pull, Henry! Pull, Nellie! Pull, Ted! Pull, Franklin! Pull, Warwick!” Then, with minimal effort, the aged mule popped the car from the murky sludge, the car was free!
The man stood in amazement. He thanked the farmer, patted the mule, then asked, “Why did you call out all those other names before you called out Warwick?”
The farmer just smiled and said, “Old Warwick is almost blind. As long as he believes that he is part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.”
“A GOOD LEADER inspires others with confidence in him…a GREAT LEADER inspires them with a confidence in themselves.” ~ Unknown
The Civil War was a bloody and vicious war. At least 618,000 Americans died and some say the toll reached 700,000. Casualties exceeded all of America’s other wars from the Revolution through Vietnam.
In the winter of 1862, General Robert E. Lee’s forces had claimed several key battlefields in the Eastern Campaign. One of those key battles was as one-sided as a battle could be. It was the Battle of Fredericksburg. On December 13, 1862, Union forces began what was termed a desperate and eventual doomed assault on a heavily fortified position known as “the stone wall at sunken road.”
After crossing a river, the Union confidently took the town of Fredericksburg with little resistance. The Confederate army had voluntarily given up the town so that they might fortify themselves along a stone wall at the base of a sloping hill. As the Union army began to approach the wall, they were attacked and by the morning of December 14th over 8,000 Union soldiers had been shot in front of the stone wall. Many of those remaining on the battlefield were still alive, but suffering from their wounds, the cold, and thirst.
During the night, both sides were forced to listen to the cries and moans of those soldiers for hours. A Confederate soldier stationed near the wall later stated that it was “weird, unearthly, and terrible to hear and bear the cries of the dying soldiers filling the air – lying crippled on a hillside so many miles from home – breaking the hearts of soldiers on both sides of the battlefield.”
Richard Rowland Kirkland, an infantry sergeant for the Confederacy could not rest or sleep due to the suffering of the Union soldiers and that morning he asked his commanding officer if he could scale the wall and, the shooting stopped. provide water for the suffering Union troops. The commanding officer was reluctant at first because of the danger to Richard but later allowed to do so. As Richard climbed the wall, several shots were instantly fired thinking that Kirkland’s motives were to wound more, but after realizing what was happening, the shooting ceased. Richard Rowland Kirkland made his way to each soldier comforting them the best he could by laying his jacket over one and providing water to the thirsty lips for all. For the next hour and a half, he would scale the wall several times with his canteen to get more water for his enemy.
It was a moment that temporarily stopped the Civil War.
You see, Mr. Kirkland showed an incredible sense of courage and leadership to his men and the enemy in an extremely adverse situation. He most likely was very scared and fearful knowing that his decision to help others might have been his last…but he made a commitment and stuck to it to its conclusion.
How much more should people, as leaders, step up, stay focused on the task at hand and work together with others, to achieve their goals! There is a huge difference between a Boss and a Leader…a Boss has people work for THEM to get a job completed, while a Leader works together with people, to accomplish a task. I doubt very much that anyone will experience a situation as extreme as Mr. Kirkland, but will have the opportunity each day to demonstrate their leadership skills to those around them.
I think that some people will find this hard to believe, but people are not perfect. All of us have inadequacies and deficiencies that others may look at in a negative light but what individuals don’t realize, is that in many, many ways, some weaknesses in people can, in fact, be used in positive ways! This is true in all areas of life whether it be at work, schools, businesses, etc. We should learn, especially if you are a leader, how to find strengths through weaknesses.
Consider the following story…
There was once a man who had two large clay pots which he would hang on the ends of a pole he carried across his neck when he went to fetch water from a stream. One of the pots had a small crack in it while the other was perfect. The perfect pot always brought home a full pot of water while the cracked pot returned home barely half full.
For years, the man would always return from the stream with only one and a half pots of water. The perfect pot was very proud of its accomplishment; however, the cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection. It felt terrible that it only accomplished half of what it was intended to do.
One day while kneeling by the stream to fill his two pots, the cracked pot spoke out, “I am sorry Sir and want to apologize.”
“Why? What are you sorry about?” asked the man.
“Because of my flaw, I can only give you half a load. Never ever have I given you what you expected,” said the cracked pot.
The man continued to quietly fill his pots. When he put his pole over his neck with his two pots attached, he looked at the cracked pot and said, “Today as we walk home, look down at the path as we walk.” As they walked, the cracked pot did what he was told; he looked down at the path. By the time they arrived home half the water in the cracked pot had leaked out and it was feeling sorry for itself again.
After the man put down his pole, he asked the cracked pot, “What did you notice along the path on our way home?”
“I noticed beautiful flowers growing along our path,” replied the cracked pot.
“You’re right,” said the man. “Flowers do grow along our path. “However, did you notice they only grow on one side of the path and not the other?”
You see, I have always known about your flaw and I decided to take advantage of it. I only planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day as we walked back from the stream, you watered the seeds for me. Because of you, I have always had an abundance of beautiful flowers to decorate my home and share with my friends. Without your flaw, I would never have had all this beauty in my life.”
Remember, the people we know are just like the cracked pot. They all have flaws. Rather than complain about their imperfections, maybe we should acknowledge their flaws and take advantage of them to make our lives and places where we live and work, better places to live. For example, in the working world, imagine how much better a work environment could be or how much production would improve, if leaders looked upon their employees with this kind of mindset! Maximizing strengths through weaknesses is a true sign of a successful person!
I recently came across this picture that gives us a fantastic,simple and true illustration of the building blocks of success. What are the things that define a person who is successful? Again, check out the picture and discover for yourself the answers…in a simple and clear way!
The other day I came across the following article, written by Travis Bradberry on Entreprenuer.com that I thought was a fascinating read and should be shared with you. I hope that in some way, this short piece will either enlighten you or someone you know and give you some strategies and guidelines in becoming the most successful leader that you can be!
One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”
Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole.
Below are 12 essential behaviors that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and you can become a better leader today.
“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” —Aristotle
People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.
For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.
Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest path—the path of least resistance—because they’d rather cover their backside than lead.
“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” —Joseph Priestley
Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.
Great communicators inspire people. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.
“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.”
Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best—not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.
“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.”
Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives, or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders—like everyone else—view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.
Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.
Adherence to the Golden Rule +1
“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”
—Jon Wolfgang von Goethe
The Golden Rule—treat others as you want to be treated—assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.
Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.
“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.”
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.
“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
—Reverend Theodore Hesburgh
Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.
“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart–it’s all a man has.”
Authenticity refers to being honest in all things — not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.
Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.
“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.”
Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight, and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.
“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.”
Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.
Sense Of Purpose
“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.”
Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of whyyou’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.
Bringing It All Together
Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act“ some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.