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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Leadership




Great leaders  hire people smarter, more innovative, and better than themselves.

Poor leaders want to be the smartest one in the room. They always make sure they are.

Great leaders care about those who work for and with them... their life stories, their hobbies, their interests. They know that personal lives can effect professional careers and realize that to know an employee and care is the key to unleashing their potential at work.

Poor leaders only care about themselves. They will tell their grand heroic story of their own life ad nauseum.

Great leaders give others credit for good things even when a lot of the credit goes to him or her. If bad things happen, the great leader steps out front to take the blame.

Poor leaders are eager to take credit for everything, even those things that they had little or nothing to do with.

Great leaders have a great staff and tell everyone.

Poor leaders are surrounded by idiots and let everyone know it.

Great leaders focus an organization on the organization's mission. They focus on the customer

Poor leaders focus an organization on pleasing him/ her and become the only customer that matters to the employees.

Great leaders attract other great leaders.

Poor leaders repel great leaders.

Great leaders are watchful.

Poor leaders are verbose.

Great leaders can turn even poor leaders into better leaders. They mentor and create other great leaders.

Poor leaders make other poor leaders out of their buddies and cronies whether they are competent or not.

Great leaders work hard and smart and are able to tell which work is the most important. They never mistake urgent work for important work. They know that an open door as much as possible during working hours means that people will communicate with them.

Poor leaders cut corners and make excuses for why they need time away or to close their door. They know that a closed door as much as possible during working hours means that no one will bother them. So, they close their door.

Great leaders encourage and inspire the best and trust others to do their best. Most often they are made proud by the results. Sometimes, they are let down when someone misuses their freely given trust but believe it is still worth it to trust and give others the joy of service. Dale Carnegie is his friend.

Poor leaders have to manipulate every situation. They strategist every move with their sometimes hidden supporters. Machiavelli is a friend of this person.

Great leaders know that their words of encouragement are like $1000 dollar bills and look for opportunities to give honest praise and spread the wealth. They do not spend their praise for it to return to them, but it multiplies exponentially anyway in good will.

Poor leaders know that their words of anger cause immediate action and "respect." When you dole out unkindness it is like you are stealing $10 out of someone's wallet. They like the feeling of power and seeing people stand at attention when they are around. They do not know that stealing self-respect is a pathway towards imploding a person's potential and their own.

Great leaders believe that most people want to do a good job and use mistakes as teachable moments. His ability to wisely, discretely handle staff problems earns the loyalty of the flawed humans he leads. His staff is more willing to forgive his inevitable mistakes (when they happen) and are willing to provide valuable feedback to him so he can have a teachable moment as well. The leader's attitude about mistakes is ALWAYS paid back to him in his moment of need. For great leaders are also flawed humans.

Poor leaders believe that most people are slackers and want to do as little as possible to draw a pay check that they don't deserve. He thinks the whole organization will fall apart if he is  not there to make sure it runs. He believes that since he is the only person who cares about doing a good job that it is his job to personally inspect, find, and note EVERY mistake he sees - after all, he can only be finding just a small percentage of the mistakes anyway. He is never willing to forgive even the smallest mistakes and makes large publicly-known incidents out of the smallest discretions. He publicly humiliates those who make mistakes. The leader's attitude about mistakes is ALWAYS paid back to him in his moment of need. For poor leaders are also flawed humans.

Great leaders take criticism, examine it, and examine themselves to determine if there is a grain of truth in the criticism. She knows that most criticism has a grain of truth but also that there are the rare instances of a mean person (usually poor leaders) who just make stuff up. She can tell the difference.

Poor leaders never take criticism well and condemn those who give it as being subversive and enemies of the organization. She thinks she IS the organization and so her enemies are enemies of the organization. She thinks all criticism is from mean people who make stuff up.

Great leaders often have their heyday and are a living tradition of leadership. But every great leader typically has a horribly dark moment. It is most often when the great leader stands against a poor leader who has taken root somewhere and is doing harm. It is during these times of alienation, loneliness, and enmity when poor leaders and their oft-intimidated followers malign the great leader's love of the organization and the organization's mission. As the poor leaders and their followers circle, machinate, and manipulate, the great leader often questions the meaning of his whole life and if it is for naught. It is at these times the Great Leader must turn to his Maker and his mission and remain consistent with all he believes. He rarely realizes that great leaders like Churchill, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were largely made by their heroic behavior in the darkest days of their organization. The great leader clings to noble thoughts, deeds, and actions amidst even when surrounded by the most grotesque of human behavior. Great leaders eventually see the opportunity for rain amidst the dark clouds.

Poor leaders often have their heyday when they are able to take on great leaders. This bright moment brings him to the peak of what he likes: chaos and plotting. It is often when a poor leader is being attacked from his position by a great leader because the great leader has had enough. It is during these times of plotting, people, and malignment against a person with the respect and tradition of others that the poor leader experiences his greatest memories. As the poor leaders and his followers circle, machinate, and manipulate, the poor leader enjoys every moment never realizing that 


poor leaders are never made great by taking down great leaders. 


Poor leaders lead a trail of destroyed lives and people in their wake: castoffs in their quest to feel important. poor leaders eventually see dark clouds on the horizon of even the clearest day. 

Great leaders have great character, mission, and are well grounded in things that are important in life. They are real but they are not always recognized. They are loved but often not by the powerful people. They are great because they make us all greater and we do great things when they are around. Their power is lasting for when they are gone, they leave a legacy of what it means to live a good life.

Poor leaders have little character, no mission but self-promotion and are not grounded in what is important. They are fakes and make sure they are recognized. They are loved by the powerful but often disdained by the average person. They are poor leaders because they make the people around them poorer in spirit, life, and love and we do worse when they are around. Their power is often temporary for when they are gone, the power vacuum is quickly absorbed by other poor leaders ready to jostle into place.


Please add your thoughts in the comments.


This article is dedicated to two of the greatest leaders I know, my husband Kip Davis (former Rotary Club president for Camilla and recipient of the Governor's Award of Excellence for his leadership in my hometown for leading the tornado recovery efforts) my father, James Lee Adams (former president of the American Soybean Association.) These two men define my thoughts of great leadership.


I would also like to say that my headmaster, Ross Worsham, is a great leader and that these thoughts have been formed from my 43 years of living, leading, and learning about what it means to lead. He is mentioned without being named in many of the "great leader" notes. We need more great leaders and we need to know that it is important to aspire to be great, to do the right thing, and to treat all human beings with respect. Power is fleeting but a person who treats everyone with respect deserves to be a leader.

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