So, You’re A Leader Are You?

How self-aware of being a good leader are you? Are you sure of yourself? Do you lead with confidence? How about courage? Are you a courageous leader able to make those hard decisions when they need to be made? Do you believe in yourself as a leader? Do others believe in you as their leader?

These are all questions that go through a leader’s mind every day. And frankly if they didn’t then you might not be that great a leader.

How do the people you are supposed to be leading react to you? Do they do what you ask and much more? Or do they barely do what you ask them to do?

I have been studying and reading a great deal about leadership recently, primarily because I believe great companies have great leaders. They have leaders who are so strong, so sure of themselves, and so charismatic that their teams will literally be blinded by their charisma to the point of following them through hell without question.

I recently streamed two limited series about such leaders. The first was “The Dropout” which was about Elizabeth Holmes, the Theranos wunderkind who dropped out of Stanford at nineteen to start her company Theranos, which featured a revolutionary blood analysis product. Her vision far exceeded the reality of chemistry, and the product did not work. But the very power of her leadership kept the company going for a long time, past the time when they knew it did not work. But she so believed in her own reality that she fooled everyone from Walgreen executives to former cabinet members Schultz and Kissinger. Now she is around the corner from going to prison.

Then there is the story of Adam Neuman the also charismatic co-founder and CEO of WeWork, an office space leasing company that grew until it became an untenable house of cards and collapsed and was the subject of the limited series “We Crashed.” Newman was nothing if not passionate and emotional about his vision for this company. He carried it so far that his plan was to become president not of the country…but the world. And once again he was such a great leader that his people would do anything for him. Until they didn’t, until finally they opened their eyes and saw behind the shiny object of his flawed vision and then they were angry.

The point is that what sometimes seems like great leadership is not. It is simply a matter of intoxicating your followers to the point of unconditional passionate loyalty.

There was a guy in the 1930’s and 40’s who did the same things. Think hard you might have heard of him…little guy? Funny little Charlie Chaplin mustache?

The point is that great leadership is not only passion, charisma, and vision. Great leadership also has to include solid values and morals and the honest desire to do good. Without that people are leading cults,  not great organizations.

I read a book recently, the title was “Visual Leadership.” It was written by Todd Cherches. And in the book Mr. Cherches lists some of the questions that a leader should be asking of him or herself. Here from that book:

  1. How do you personally define leadership? Leadership is not a title. Rather it is about stepping up to leadership when leadership is needed. It comes in many forms. What’s yours?
  2. Who are some leaders that you admire and why? By looking and the qualities and characteristics of leaders that you hold in high regard, you can shape your own.
  3. Who have been some of the influential people in your own life from whom you have learned something about leadership? The answer will help you get specific about your own values, leadership style, and ethics.
  4. What have been some defining leadership moments in your life? These are moments that you would consider game changers that moved or inspired you in a profound way. They have shaped the person and leader you have become and serve as a guidepost.
  5. What are you truly passionate about? These are things that excite you out of bed every morning or keep you contemplating at night. They energize you and give you purpose. Figuring out what lights a fire inside you will help you do the same in those you lead.
  6. Why should anyone be led by you? This is a scary one and more than a little challenging to face. You can get to the heart of the answer by considering what would happen if you left your current position. Would people eagerly leave to follow you, or would they be glad that you were going?
  7. What are some of the key leadership  lessons you want to pass along to others? Part of your responsibility as a leader is to foster leadership skills and traits in others. Pondering what people say about you at your retirement party will hone in on these lessons.
  8. Who are the people in your life right now who make you a better person and a better leader? Think about the people in your  life that you can count on to be open and honest and candid and truthful with you, with no other agenda than wanting to help you be the best leader you can be. You will need to rely on them throughout your leadership journey.
  9. What are you reading, listening to, and watching? The information you expose yourself to can have incredible impacts on how you lead yourself and others. Never stop seeking new sources.
  10. Are you a good follower? Effective leaders have to sometimes follow someone else’s lead. Who do you follow and are you good at it?

Interesting questions, right? I think rather than treat these as questions we should turn them around and consider them guidelines helping us to become great leaders.

It’s only common sense.