The Choice (A Personal Treatise on Leadership)
Don’t read this article if you enjoy working for autocratic, dictatorial, micromanaging egotistical leaders. If you do, your ideal manager would be someone who has the “intelligence” of Michael Scott from “The Office,” the “people skills” of Dr. House, and the “selflessness” of Jack Donaghy from “30 Rock.” LOL!
Research by Gallup has shown that 50 percent of employees had left a job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.” My question to you then, is: Do you want to be a leader people run away from? Who knows … maybe you do. There are plenty of examples of companies that have been “successful” in spite of their poor leadership. Then again, to me and many others, that is not the point. The better question is: What kind of work environment and leadership brings out the best in us?
Based on my many years of witnessing how to do things and how not to do things, I have compiled the following list of “pie in the sky” attributes I look for in a leader:
- Good leaders understand that most people are paying attention to what they do, not what they say; therefore, they understand role modeling.
- They are the first to proclaim when they can’t do something, when they forget to do something, when they won’t do something, or when they failed at something. This does wonders for creating an environment of complete transparency, open communication, and loyalty.
- They come from a place of authenticity and continually exhibit humility. They understand they have the position, the power, and the compensation and therefore don’t have to prove anything.
- Good leaders like to catch people doing good. Anyone can point out failure.
- They give credit and accept blame.
- They aim to create a safe environment. When they ask for input and feedback, they actually mean it.
- They understand inspiration and motivation. Primarily, they know that everyone has a unique motivational makeup, which leaders must make a valiant effort to understand.
- Good leaders dream, think, design, and create the conditions that facilitate everyone’s professional, personal, and financial success.
- They have broad perspective. They understand what is truly important.
- Last, but not least, their personal lives are congruent with their professional lives. Disordered personal lives lead to disordered professional lives. Period.
Over the past 40 years, many forests have been decimated in the name of publishing books on leadership. I am not sure I would invest my valuable time reading them … they all seem to say the same things.
Frankly and arguably, all this stuff was figured out a long time ago, but one of the many tragedies of the human condition is our imperfect ability to learn from the past. If you really want to become a great leader or be able to identify one, I suggest you read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a book with insights that remain relevant today even though it was written 2,000 years ago. Marcus Aurelius personified many of the attributes of a good leader—to such an extent that even Machiavelli would describe him as “unassuming, a lover of justice, hater of cruelty, sympathetic and kind.”
Your choice. Who would you rather work with? Who would you rather work for? Who would you rather be?