Leaders. We admire them, look up to them, wonder what it is to be them, take classes so that we can emulate them, at times we even envy them. After all, leadership is sexy, right. The power, the money, the prestige, the glamor, the lifestyle. They strut in, serious and focused, each morning and end each day with a smile of success, jacket slung over their shoulder and a spring in their step. They have the life!
Or maybe it just seems that way.
I remember a meeting years ago that a group of us had with one of President Clinton’s top advisors. It was not the discussion on the economy and world affairs that made the lasting impact with me. It was a comment made as an aside describing the President’s day or specifically his evening. For at 10 PM each night, President Clinton was presented with a big thick briefing book outlining the key information that had been prepared for him so that he would be ready for the meetings scheduled the next day. Before he turned in for the night, he would read it through cover to cover. Presidents have long days and lots of homework. It’s not all applause, handshakes and Hail to the Chief.
Whether you are President of the United States, or a team leader at a fast food restaurant, leaders have responsibilities and good leaders understand that the day is not ever over until the priorities are handled and responsibilities are met. It’s when leaders forget this that their leadership falters or is subject to question.
A leader’s priorities and responsibilities
Leaders live by their word.
If you want to be chosen to lead, be ready to show that you can be trusted. Leaders don’t lie, “forget” to tell the truth, let untrue assumptions stand or otherwise intentionally mislead. Leadership is not granted, it is earned by not only saying the right words, but by doing the right thing. Your word is your promise and keeping your promises is a hallmark of leadership. Broken promises lead to broken teams and opportunities missed by all.
Leaders finish what they start, even when it is inconvenient.
There’s a reason that the captain is the last one to leave a troubled ship. Simply stated, the captain is responsible for the ship and every member of the crew. Leaders who bail are not leaders and sooner or later they meet the censure of their peers. Whether you are on the high seas, or walking the shop floor, a leader understands that taking care of the team and the people they serve is an obligation, not a slogan on a motivational poster you plaster on the lunch room wall to build up morale.
Leaders don’t ask of others what they will not do personally.
True leaders don’t have hatchet men, clean up crews, fall guys, or someone to delegate damage control to. Dealing with, and taking responsibility for, failure is as much the leader’s role as are the accolades of success. Throwing someone under the bus or letting a teammate take the hit is not leadership, it’s cowardice. And that is a trait you are unlikely to find on anyone’s list of leadership character traits, LinkedIn profile, or a CEO’s resume.
Leaders make it look easy.
Great leaders make it look effortless when the reality is anything but. We don’t want to listen to our leaders telling us how hard it is. Leaders don’t whine. We look to them to inspire us, to guide us, and to foster the belief that together “we can” do what we have set out to do.
Leaders are admired for who they are as much as for what they do.
In the end, leaders stand out for what they have inside of them and how they let it out. The trappings of success may look great from afar, but the pinnacle of leadership is reached one step at a time and it is always an up hill climb to get there… and stay there.
Maybe leadership is not so sexy in real life after all.
As a matter of fact, it’s a wonder that leaders have any energy left at all by the end of the day. But somehow they do. You see, for real leaders, the privilege of leadership itself is energizing…not just for the leader, but for everyone around them.
So, are YOU ready to make the climb?
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned….
Oh, and if you are curious about the young man in the picture, he is already making the climb. As an athlete, he led his teams to championships, and now as an entrepreneur he is putting the skills he practiced on the ice to play in his business, putting his team mates first, watching their back, fighting for his team, pouring the passion and dedication that once drove him down the ice into achieving new goals. I’d definitely call him a leader – but I’ll pass on calling him sexy, after all, I’m his Mom and that would just be weird.
About the Joan:
An entrepreneur, author, speaker and corporate advisor, Joan Koerber-Walker’s journey has spanned from corporate America to entrepreneurship and non-profits, as well as to community leadership and into the halls of Washington D.C. To learn more about how CorePurpose and the CoreAlliance can help you grow your business in 2011, you can contact her by clicking here.