Saturday, April 9, 2011

Traits of an Effective Leader

  • Leads with integrity – “I conduct business ethically and treat people with fairness, and expect the same in return.”
  • Is a role model – “If long hours is what it takes, I’m the first one there with my sleeves rolled up.”
  • Gives guidance – “How can people improve and grow if they are not guided by mentors who have their best interest in mind?”
  • Learns how to listen – “It’s not easy, but I have to watch for nonverbal signals, as well as what is actually being said, by focusing only on the person in front of me.”
  • Is honest – “There can be no leadership without trust. That trust is earned – every day – by my behavior.”
  • Is a teacher – “Much the same as a mentor, I need to articulate a vision and inspire confidence in my ‘students.’”
  • Keeps an open mind – “I don’t know all the answers and I’m willing to admit it. Wisdom doesn't just come with age or years of experience; it comes from inspiration and applying lessons learned.  I am open to my team’s insight and ideas.”
  • Is willing to learn – “Leaders get stale if they don’t keep up with what’s going on around them.”
  • Is consistent – “People know they can count on me to give praise or discipline equally to each person.”
  • Always follows through – “I don’t just show up, give instructions, and leave it to everyone else to figure it out from there. I do what I say I will do. No excuses.”
  • Plans ahead – “There should be no surprises. We have to focus on the challenges at hand, but we can never lose sight of what’s to come.”
  • Has realistic expectations – “There has to be a healthy balance between aggressive ‘wishes’ and what can be reasonably done given time and talent constraints. I apply this to my team as well as to others.”

Traits of a Dictator

An absolutist or autocratic leader is also known as a dictator. They may have started out to be a good leader, but after a few years in the same position of authority, they begin to think more highly of themselves than one should think. They become a ruler. In time, they assume sole and absolute power, sometimes through eliminating anyone who opposes them. 

In church circles, they get confused about God, or come to believe that they are the only interpretation of God. If you disagree with them, you are disagreeing with God.  Like a tyrant, or an autocrat, dictators become oppressive, even abusive to the people they supposedly serve.

There is no other term for a leader who holds and/or abuses an extraordinary amount of personal power, especially the power to make rules without effective restraint by a legislative assembly like a committee, conference, or convention, but dictatorship.

You will hear them say things like, "We must get a handle on this situation," "Better get control of that," or "We don't need to let this get out of control."  Control becomes more important than service.  Committee meetings, conferences and business meetings become less important, insignificant, or non-existent.

This leadership style is often characterized by some of the following traits:

  • suspension of election or selection process by those they serve
  • suspension of most liberties
  • control of media or press
  • personal gain monetarily
  • proclamation of “I am in charge”
  • rule by decree
  • repression of all opponents
  • uses the rules when beneficial, breaks the rules at will
  • cult of personality
In the 21st Century, this leadership style does not work well. It eventually ends in an overthrow. It is happening around the world. People eventually rise up.

If your leader has the following traits, they are in trouble:

  • Secretive – “I know what will work, but if I keep it to myself and my subordinates mess up, I’ll be able to jump in and save the day.”
  • Micro manager – “I can’t trust the programmers to stay on task. That’s why I make them check in twice a day and to let me know their progress.”
  • Egotistical – “I have a Harvard degree and 30 years of experience. These hot-shot newcomers think I should listen to them. How could they know anything?”
  • Biased – “Why should I listen to women [or minorities or young people or industry experts]?
  • Close-minded – “I don’t care what anyone says. I know what’s best.”
  • Unwilling to listen – “I already know what people think. They think they know more than I do! Why should I waste my time?
  • Dishonest – “No one has to know that last month’s report was a bit skewed. If I turned in the right figures, Smith’s state would look better than mine.”
  • Inconsistent – “I know Jane expects a raise because I hinted at that when I gave her extra responsibilities this year – and she knows that Kevin got his raise – but there’s just something about Jane that I don’t like.”
  • Lacks focus – “There are so many facets to this work. Some are confusing and I don’t have time for all of them. Someone else will have to figure them out.”
  • Has unrealistic expectations – “I promised I would do that.  But they haven't satisfied me so somebody’s going to have to pay!”
  • Provides – “I’m not paid to be a counselor or a hand-holder. They’ll just have to do it the best, with no guidance, if they can.”
  • Does not plan – “The project is due next week, but I’ve been working on something else real important. I guess they will just have to wait.”