A few weeks ago an MBA student requested to meet with me to get my thoughts on Leadership. Humbled at the opportunity to meet with the student I prepared a few thoughts on the topic. Prior to our chat, I reviewed a few of my favorite books and articles on the topic of Leadership. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Level Three Leadership - Dr. James Clawson
2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - Dr. John C. Maxwell
3. Creating Magic - Mr. Lee Cockerell (thank you Lisa Corless for this Gift)
4. Leaders Eat Last - Mr. Simon Sinek
5. The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs - Mr. Walter Isaacson (Harvard Business Review 2012)
After reviewing my notes I then came up with a definition for leadership. Please note, I believe that Leadership depends on the context. What I mean by this is that leadership traits that may be effective for the CEO of a Fortune 50 company are going to quite different from those traits that are effective for a startup tech. company with 10 employees. Considering my context, I define leadership from the viewpoint or lens of a leader in a small, scrappy, and agile startup tech. company.
First, a definition for Leadership. Leadership is the courageous action to create and passionately communicate a clear vision that inspires one's team to bring the vision to fruition.
Second, what are the keys to being an effective leader? In an effort to keep it simple, a task that I am not particularly skilled at, I identified 4 keys to leadership.
1. Inspirational vision -- a leader needs to have an inspirational vision comprised of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). Without an inspirational vision the leader will struggle to have followers. Everyone desires to do something big, and dreaming big is the first step for doing something big.
2. Communicate - a leader must be able to communicate the vision with their team. In recent years, I honestly have struggled in this area. I honestly prefer face-to-face meetings for most interactions, and in our current organization we have several team members that reside in cities outside of San Antonio. Virtual work relationships are particularly difficult to maintain, but given the age that we live in, are increasingly becoming the norm. Consequently, leaders must be able to clearly communicate via email, googlechat, text messaging, etc. I struggle in this area and am making efforts to improve my written communication skills.
3. Delegate roles & responsibilities -- in a startup environment this is actually very challenging. Startup folks must wear many hats and be comfortable with taking the lead on multiple initiatives at the same time. In addition, there are fewer lines in the sand between team players, and a leader needs to assist in trying to clearly define these ever changing roles.
4. Be a positive, encouraging and resourceful coach -- anyone that has worked with me knows that I believe that a positive attitude is key to success. In fact, studies show that attitude and performance are closely linked. I have a very low tolerance for workers with a persistently negative attitude. A leader must maintain a positive attitude in order to keep the ship moving forward at a rapid clip. Leaders must also be sure to provide their team with the tools and resources that they need to get the job done.
One more key. In addition to the above elements, probably the most important key to strong leadership is the "The law of connection"--it is Wise to Touch a Heart before you ask for a hand.
Finally, a few quotes from my favorite leaders.
Are there any leadership elements that I should have included?
I would love to get your thoughts.