As we wrap up this seven-part series on the key questions that every leader must ask of themself, it is appropriate to end with the most important question of all. That is, “Are you leading?” At the end of the day, this is where the rubber meets the road.
If you are in a position of leadership, it is your duty to lead your people and your organization toward a common purpose, vision, and mission on a daily basis. Leadership is not about position; it is about influence, action, and results. Yet, all too many people think that holding a leadership position makes them a leader. These type of “leaders” talk often of what they are going to do, but they do not back it up with action (a prime example is the modern day politician).
So how do you know if you are actually leading and influencing others? Let’s briefly review the topics that were covered in the previous six posts:
1) Preparation – leaders make an intentional and conscious effort to prepare themselves for leadership. They know their purpose and have the daily discipline to prepare “off-stage” so that they can more effectively lead and perform “on-stage.”
2) Teachability – leaders understand that they do not know everything, and they are always open to learning. By committing to being a lifelong learner, leaders set an example for their team to follow.
3) Security – leaders are comfortable in their own skin, and they know their own limitations. Secure leaders have no problem surrounding themselves with people who are smarter and more talented than they are.
4) Awareness – leaders know what is going on within their organization and among their employees. They take time to get out of their office and interact with their people, asking them questions and finding out what can be done to improve the work environment.
5) Listening – leaders actually listen to what their people tell them. They serve their team by actively and objectively listening to their concerns, ideas, and requests.
6) Courage – leaders take action, even when it is uncomfortable. They have the tough conversations and often take risks in order to advance the interests of the organization. Failure does not deter them.
Leaders who lack the aforementioned qualities will not be able to fully lead their organization and team, and at some point they may even drive away their best people. Why? Because they will create an unhealthy work environment, where employee frustration turns into resentment and eventually turnover. This can be avoided though, IF the leader will do the things necessary to create a healthy organization. Answering these questions and addressing any personal leadership deficiencies will go a long way in doing just that.
I trust that this seven-part series has been helpful to you, even if in just some small way. As I mentioned in the introductory post, these are just a sampling of questions that leaders must ask themselves. Based on my experience though, these self-reflective and introspective questions are some of the most important questions that a leader must address.
So I end with how I started. Are you leading, or are you just occupying a position?
Quotes on Leadership
“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” — John Buchan
“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on.” — Walter Lippmann
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max DePree
“The older I get, the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.” — Andrew Carnegie
“Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead.” — Ross Perot