I am often asked for secrets to successful leadership. There really aren’t any secrets, but saying that makes me seem less of an expert so I just put on my best wise looking smile and provide a short list of key leadership principles. While it’s tough to pick out just a few of the actions essential for leadership success, the following three are certainly a good place to start. Is this oversimplified? Perhaps, but a leader who understands and embraces these three points will be successful.
- Leaders have a vision – at all levels. Whether they are a first-level supervisor or a corporate CEO, I’ve observed that the most successful leaders have a vision of what can be. That vision drives them and, when properly expressed, provides motivation for their teams. People are more likely to be loyal to leaders who know where they’re going and have a big dream of what’s possible. Even at the lowest levels of leadership, that vision can make the difference between an adequate leader and a dynamite leader!
- People make leaders successful. Leaders may have the vision, see the bigger picture, and have the larger investment or the most experience in some aspect of the organization. But, leaders cannot make good things happen without people. It’s the team members who make leaders successful. All my discussions about learning what motivates people and their desire to win is based on this fact.
- People make mistakes. What, you say? How can this be a principle of leadership? Look at it as a follow up to the second point. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. It is the way we handle those mistakes that is a critical leadership point. The leader who helps team members learn from their errors, who protects them when necessary, and provides the appropriate correction, is more likely to succeed than the one who constantly harps on mistakes and defaults to retribution. This issue of mistakes is a two-way street though. Leaders also make mistakes and the way they handle their own goofs has a lot to do with their success as a leader. When leaders try to cover up a mistake, or pass it off as someone else’s error, team members will see that for what it is: lack of integrity. On the other hand, when leaders set a good example with their own mistakes, team members are more likely to respect them.
As I said, these are not secrets, but alas, experience has proven that in too many cases, they are unknown to leaders. Is this all you need to know about leadership? No. But these three principles will get you off to a good start.
To learn more tips for successful leadership get Don’t Worry, You Can Do This: What New Supervisors and Managers Need to Know About Leadership.