I am not an expert on leadership but I am someone who likes to observe. I have learned a number of things about leadership, both by leading and by following.
Here some of the things that I have learned over the years.
- Character is key. People want to follow leaders who they can believe in. No leader is perfect, but leaders who demonstrate poor character traits will have trouble, no matter how powerful the vision is.
- It is helpful to allow followers to have a say in goal setting. I have tried to get people to work toward my goals, but when the goals are ours, the outcome is much better.
- People need to be reminded of the vision. It is not enough to present the vision once and put up a few posters. The vision needs to be brought up over and over. Activities of the organizations should be explicitly connected to the vision.
- Encouragement works better than criticism. Some leaders lead by criticism, hoping that fear of rebuke will lead to better performance. I have found that people improve when they are encouraged in what they have done right.
- The leader cannot do everything. Many people become leaders because they are gifted in a number of areas. It is tempting to do many things by yourself so that you will know it is done right. It is better to share the duties, even if the next person might not do it quite as well.
- Self-care is essential. Many of the leaders who are admired are those who burn out. This is unfortunate. Leadership is not a sprint, it is a marathon. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to lead effectively.
- Lead in the context of something that you are passionate about. If you do not believe in the purpose of the organization, leading will become tiring very quickly. If you believe that what you are doing is making a difference and you are excited about the results, leadership will be much easier.
These are just some things that I have learned about leadership. If you want some great formal leadership training, I highly recommend the Arrow Leadership Program. I am graduate of that program and it really changed my life.