Commentary: Three essential ingredients for effective leadership


by Jim North
Southeast Campus Editor

Leadership involves doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons. Many people aspire to be a leader, but not everyone is willing to sacrifice themselves for the common good.

The end result of self-serving can sometimes be disastrous. I remember working at a furniture store and the regional manager polled all the salespeople on staff in order to identify the potential leaders.

He divided leadership styles into categories: lion (takes charge), golden retriever (warm, amiable relationships), beaver (thorough, attention to detail) and otter (wants to have fun). Nearly every salesperson identified themselves as ‘lion’. Lions pride themselves for being aggressive personalities, generally aiming to ‘lead from the front’.

However, merely desiring to be in charge is not enough; the best interests of customers and team must be kept in mind.

To be certain, there is more to leadership than meets the eye. When warehouse and delivery employees in the same store were polled, nearly all indicated they would like to see the ‘beaver’ salesperson as manager, which was ironic. The ‘beaver’ wasn’t purposely trying to ‘lead from the front’, but did so unconsciously.

Beavers pay more attention to detail than others, are thorough in their duties, and often care about others. They are not necessarily ‘driven’ to be in charge, but earn the privilege by being trustworthy and reliable.
One of the ‘lions’ was already an assistant manager, but was dishonest and unreliable with both employees and customers. Eventually, he was fired.
Three qualities I value the most in leaders are: positive conviction, a good example, and self- less service to others.

Positive conviction means I am committed to doing the right thing, rather than the wrong. Defining leaders, I heard a speaker once say that all one has to do is ‘turn around’ and see if anybody is following. If people are following, you are therefore a leader. If no one is following, you are therefore not a leader.

I couldn’t disagree more. A person with positive conviction will walk alone if necessary, even if no one else comes along for the ride. Sometimes, it is a pro- cess of time before it becomes evident to others that a particular path chosen was in fact the right one.

There are those in history who have had masses of people following them, who were not leaders at all, rather tyrants.

Leaders are committed to doing good, not evil— right, not wrong. Those who do not create good for others, should not be construed as leaders.

Adolf Hitler was a tyrant, but not a true leader, in
spite of his massive following.

honesty, good will, and personal integrity. The last thing a leader ought to be guilty of is squandering trust which has been afforded them. Leading is a privilege, not an entitlement.

A second characteristic of leadership I value is the power of good example. The old saying, ‘do as I say and not as I do,’ does not pass the acid test.

Most, who have been in the workforce for any length of time, know how it feels to have things ‘barked’ out in demand.

Men or women who misuse position or power do not survive well in the long-run. Their legacy can leave bitterness in the hearts of those they have abused. Often, people rejoice when such individuals retire or move on to other opportunities.

Set a good example! Be someone others can look up to and aspire to become. Great leaders build great teams. They understand they cannot do a big job alone. They do not insist on getting all the credit. They distribute duties, tasks, and praise for jobs well done.

The power of a good example cannot be underestimated. Far less ‘barking’ is necessary when a quiet example is allowed to resonate throughout an organization. The ripple-effect promotes synergy, rather than demoralization within the team.

A third characteristic of great leaders is a distinct disposition toward selfless service.

I can’t help but think of great coaches in the histo- ry of sports and athletics, past and present. The great ones want to serve and build their players. Everything they do is for the team, team, team.

Leaders have great vision and they break that vi- sion into manageable, doable, bite-sized pieces. Great players are often most grateful for mentors who have served and made them better.

Leaders see the potential in others and draw it out, but at the same time are never satisfied. They want to continuously improve.

Staying in one place or becoming complacent is not an option, because no matter how much achieve- ment is made, there is more around the bend—another mountain to be climbed.

The best leaders have the ability to see life from another person’s ‘side of the table’, not merely from their own perspective or point-of-view.

They put themselves in the shoes of others, and have the gumption to help them grow. In the process, they grow themselves.

Strategic, leaders never settle, and strive for the common good. Therefore, coaches and players, each achieve their respective goals, crossing the finish line of accomplishment together. Each has played their vital role.

I aspire to be a person who portrays a positive conviction, sets a good example, and possesses a disposition to serve others.

Every experience can be a learning one on the road to better leadership. Aspiring to leadership is good, but the commitment to be a team player who can learn and be mentored may be even better.

Such an attitude can be reciprocated like heads and tails on a coin. Some contexts in life call for following well, others for leading well, a complete circle.

Learners are growers and great leaders are problem-solvers, not problem-creators.

If you are a person others can trust to have their well-being and best interests in mind, you’ll be a happy person, a successful leader, and an important part of a winning team. We can all cross the finish-lines of life together, by helping one another.