You can’t fake good leadership

servant leadership

Despite all the articles, books, seminars, quotes, and coaching available on the subject of leadership, individuals still struggle with what leadership means, what it looks like, and, most importantly, how to be one. Leadership can be learned, so don’t use the excuse that “I am what I am.” Today, I wanted to provide a list of simple concepts and actions that describe leadership to me. This is not a checklist of things you must do to become a great leader. It is more like a buffet of great choices… pick a few that fit and work on them. Don’t try to master everything all at once. Focus on 3 key leadership attributes and master these, then move to the next three. Any progress will be noticed and make a difference to those you lead or try to influence.

The bottom line on leadership is you can’t fake it! Becoming a great leader takes effort, a selfless attitude, and a willingness to be open and honest. So, take a look at this list and choose three items that you know you don’t do very well and focus on improving in these areas for the next 90 days. See what difference this makes, then move to others.

Here is the list:

  1. You can’t be a great leader unless you are willing to serve others
  2. Great leaders distinguish themselves more on what they do than what they say
  3. Others won’t follow you unless they know you care for them at some level
  4. Integrity is a leadership lifestyle, not a vague concept – it is about doing, being consistent, and valuing others
  5. Great leaders take less than their share of credit for successes, but are quick to assume blame when things don’t go well
  6. A great leader develops other leaders that develop other leaders
  7. Others are reluctant to follow someone not willing to do the work that occurs behind the scenes
  8. You’ll never really be trusted unless you are willing to tell the unvarnished truth, as much as you possibly can
  9. Great leaders create the “box” of responsibility and authority, then allow team members to function within that box – they do not micromanage
  10. A great leader will never lose control of their temper, embarrass another in public, or intentionally hurt anyone else
  11. Great leaders focus more on content than form – both for others and themselves – in other words, a great leader cares more about what is inside a person than what they appear to be on the outside
  12. You can’t call yourself a great leader unless you take action to develop the skills, abilities, and future of others
  13. A great leader will work diligently to get everyone involved and, every team member gets a fair chance to contribute, participate, and thrive
  14. Great leaders quickly intervene when any team member is treated unfairly – this includes eliminating internal issues or defending the team, when needed
  15. Great leaders know that they do not have to be the expert on every subject and willingly allow and acknowledge the value added by others
  16. A great leader values listening more than talking
  17. A great leader is known by the results their team attains, but, just as importantly, they are known by the way they obtain those results
  18. Optimism, encouragement, and loyalty are attributes of all great leaders
  19. A great leader knows where the team needs to go, but allows the team members to participate in the route and means of getting there
  20. Team members always know they are valued when they are led by a terrific leader
  21. A great leader helps team members understand the sacrifice needed to achieve victory and willingly exerts personal sacrifice to make victory possible
  22. A great leader makes everyone on the team better – he/she is able to enable others to achieve more than they thought possible and make the team better collectively than the sum of the individual members
  23. A team with a great leader continues to function at a high level even when the leader is not present – the team has been prepared to function independently and effectively
  24. A great leader is not afraid to speak up to others or to provide real and meaningful feedback to individual team members
  25. A great leader is always seeking ways to improve, to become more efficient, and to eliminate wasted time, effort, and money
  26. You’ll know a great leader by what they leave behind – they leave individual team members better prepared, they leave a culture of integrity, they leave better results, they leave confidence, they leave continuity of success, and they leave things and people they encountered better than they were before they arrived

So, how are you doing as a leader? Are you trying to fake your way through it or can you see these things happening in meaningful ways? What three areas need more work? Are there others that can provide real feedback to help you either identify opportunities for improvement or that can help you monitor your improvement?

Also, think about the best leader you have ever worked with or observed. What was it about that person that made them a great leader? What can you incorporate into your own life to make you better?

Finally, this is a great day to be alive! Enjoy it and make the best of it. And remember the terrific quote by John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history:

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone that will never be able to repay you.” – John Wooden (UCLA Basketball Coach)

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