I can’t fathom how many different definitions and descriptions of a leader there are out there in the literature, but below is my description. A leader is not someone whose title necessarily connotes leadership. A leader takes on responsibilities of a leader, whether they are handed to them or not. For example, a soccer team member can lead the team when they are out on the pitch, even if they are not named captain or if they are not the best player on the field. A successful leader:
1) Is guided by possibilities, not fear. It is easy to determine whether someone is guided by possibilities or guided by fear. If they are guided by possibilities, then they trust in the potential of their partners, employees, teammates and clients. They don’t worry that everyone is trying to steal their ideas; they share them. They aren’t naïve and careless, but they don’t allow skepticism and fear to thwart progress and potential growth.
Leaders take risks and when you take risks you have to be willing to fail. When you don’t fail, then the upside can be extraordinary.
- Has passion for what they do. A leader is someone who people want to and are willing to follow.
- Doesn’t pretend to know it all or think he/she can do it on their own. They understand they need competent, engaged people on their team to be successful. And these team members need to be diverse in personality, values, talents and experiences. Even then, a leader needs to reach out to experts for advice and recommendations.
- Is generally a people person. How much of a people person depends on the industry they are in and the size of their business, but they must have good interpersonal skills and genuinely care about their employees, teammates, clients and partners and be willing to spend time with them.
- Is wiling to take a stand when necessary. Some leaders will be more opinionated and assertive than others, but in general a leader will not be extremely reserved. They will be willing to make the hard decisions, even when all the facts are not in.
- Is hard-working and driven. This goes without saying. The hard work may look different from one leader to the next. In one leader, the work could be more focused on relationship building, coaching and mentoring and another it could be more focused on content expertise.
- Is a coach and a mentor. A leader supports his/her leadership team and all employees in learning and progressing in their career, communicates clearly with them, advocates for them, and generally values them.