What a Leader Should Consider
One of the interesting parts of being a college professor is, that you can obtain the most interesting and holistic pictures of the examined topics, through the fairly straightforward process of horizonalization, which is placing all answers from all participants on one level and subsequently eliminating the redundant parts.
On my question: "What, in your opinion, are the most important aspects for a leader to consider?" my students recently came up with the following.
A good leader should consider:
* His or her mission and vision. The strength of a leader starts with having a clearly defined purpose in life.
* His or her conviction and the most appropriate leadership style, given this conviction.
* His or her communication skills, because those will make it possible to orient followers closer to the goal or dream.
* The present situation, the people who will follow the vision, the leader-follower respect level, and the desired result.
* Humility. An arrogant leader will not be followed for long, because he or she will intimidate his or her followers, which will interfere in the quality of mutual communication and sharing the conviction. Once the followers turn away, the leader ceases to be a leader. On the other hand, a leader who is humble enough to give followers credit for their efforts will be honored and respected in return.
* Adaptability to changing environments. Nothing guarantees a downfall better than a stubborn, inflexible leader.
* People skills: Knowing how to deal with followers from various backgrounds, and thus, with various perceptions.
* A well-rounded personality: Being able to get along with people and be sympathetic while, at the same time, being knowledgeable and stable as well.
* Understanding: Although this ties into adaptability and people skills, this factor still deserves separate mentioning, as understanding pertains to much more than just working well with followers. It encompasses the entire environment in which the leader leads.
* Ethics. Before leading anyone the leader should make sure his or her intentions and values are in the right place.
* Inspiration. This is closely related to conviction, communication, and motivation. The leader should believe in him or herself; be able to get the message across, and live it in order to get the followers to do the same.
* Kindness: The leader should be accessible and friendly, because these manifestations will encourage followers to open up and share their suggestions and experiences, which may turn out to be valuable resources to the leader.
* Charisma: Although maybe not the most important asset for a leader to consider, charisma helps to get people moving toward the goal at a steadier pace.
* Determination: Once the goal is set, the leader should be confident and resolute in achieving it, in spite of some hurdles that will undoubtedly surface.
* Responsible risk taking. This takes courage, but should be applied anyway. A good leader should go for what he or she believes in, even when the odds are against him or her. At the same time, the leader should stay on the right side of the fine line between taking calculated risks and indulging in foolish recklessness.
* A good heart. It is the heart that drives every part of an individual. By having a heart the leader shows character.
* The organization he or she is leading, and the goals of this organization. If the goals of the organization are not aligned to the values of the leader, he or she should consider leading somewhere else.
* A hardworking and dedicated approach. Although this is known more as a management skill than a leadership trait, it still does miracles for the identification of followers with their leader.
* Respect toward followers. If they feel appreciated and respected for their input, followers will be encouraged to perform even better.
* Listening. Followers often have very useful information to share. Besides, they experience it as positive if their leader also lends an ear to their personal issues.
* Caring: A leader who listens should also follow up by attempting to improve the quality of his or her followers' lives.
* Being positive and optimistic: this attitude will rub off on followers, and they will make the seemingly impossible possible.
* Being encouraging toward followers, even when they fail. A good leader does not shy away from giving a reprimand, but does not dwell on it too long either. He or she tries to catch people doing good things, and mentions that to them as well!
* Being socially responsible, and trying to do things right to set an example for followers. This may be the point where the golden rule should be mentioned as an important leadership consideration: "do unto others as you would want them to do unto you." The golden rule includes being cognizant of their behaviors towards employees of the company as well as customers and peers
* Having knowledge of the followers and the situation, so that the leader can apply the right leadership strategies.
It is needless to say that the list could continue inexhaustibly. However, the above provided points may encourage you to add your own perspectives.
Joan Marques, Ed.D. Burbank, May 9, 2004