I have always thought about leadership in the binary. I believe only two types of leaders exist, those who react to issues and those who can envision and then articulate forward direction. When invited to present on the topic of “Leadership”, I normally speak about two different styles of leadership: Transactional Leadership and Transformational Leadership. A reactive type of leader is prone to a transactional style, while a visionary leader tends to inspire transformation. Considering my fixation on the topic, it’s fitting to have a blog about my observations on the practice of leadership.Full disclosure, I might be writing a tirade against sensational leadership books; you know the ones with titles like, Learn to Become an effective Leader and 10 Steps to Leadership Strategy. I have not read them. I think it is because leadership is gained through experience, not from a book (or a blog). I share stories about my experience with you, knowing that I prefer to observe other leaders (rather than read about what others’ have observed). The behaviors I don’t like, I avoid, and I try to emulate those that I admire. Maybe good leaders take responsibility to put knowledge into practice.
My leadership career, many of you know, began right after college and in all of those years, never have l thought -- What would all of those books say to do in this situation? I relied on a consistent set of values, and I have evolved from practice and experience. My method is “organic” at best, and an “experiment” to say the least. The way I see it, you can privately practice getting better at many skills in life, but you can only learn how to become a good leader in public. This impasse put me in many an uncomfortable situation over time, but it was inevitable; some mistakes result in very humbling experiences. Maybe the difference between good and bad leaders is that the good ones can recognize their own mistakes, correct them and keep going.
I observed some basic traits while practicing good leadership, and here are the traits that I like. (Whether these are already well-renowned leadership traits, I do not know. Remember I did not read the book.):
I will leave this with one final anecdote. Early in my career, I led a team that supported a retail chain of stores and I always asked my hiring managers to find candidates with good “people skills”. I felt that we could teach people the technical skills, but customer service was the lead qualifier. Maybe leadership skills are the same, something you bring with you and simply enhance over time.
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