As children, we often played the game “Follow the Leader.” Out in the backyard on a Saturday afternoon, we always had the neighbor friends who made great leaders – taking us on exciting journeys through the woods, making us do funny things, or anything else that made the game more fun. But, we also had those neighborhood bullies who we despised as leaders. They were typically mean with their childish power, causing the group to do things that were dangerous or embarrassing.
The game played in childhood is played out every day in organizations and governments around the world. With a positive person in power, the organizations thrive, with high employee morale and an ever-expanding customer base. Once the corporate bully takes the helm, everything plummets – most severely is employee morale.
Employees and subordinates will draw their example from their leader. If a leader is pessimistic, the organization will become a group of naysayers. If the leader is foolishly optimistic, the organization will suffer from delusions of grandeur. Without strong leadership, teams will fail.
So, many ask, what makes a good leader? Balance. A strong leader balances their ideas with the ideas of their team members. A strong leader recognizes the importance of trend analysis, but does not use it as an excuse for abstaining from making a decision. A strong leader confidently poises themselves between diplomacy and dictatorship. They make the tough decisions. A strong leader works for the good of the team – whether that means resolving conflict, or dismissing a tumultuous team member.
But, perhaps the greatest attribute of a strong leader is recognizing the strengths of their fellow team members. Without a “my way or the highway” mentality, a strong leader will delegate tasks to their team members that play to individual strengths. The glory is not theirs alone; the glory is to be shared by the team as a whole.
By eliminating the “me factor” from their leadership repertoire, the strong leader emerges as simply one of the team. They do not push an agenda, nor work for their own resume. Instead, they focus on the overall mission of their team and they inspire others to follow the mission. They care about their teammates, giving them the credit and the accolades at every opportunity. And, when asked about their success, the strong leader recites the words of Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”