What Does a Leader Look Like?

In my last post I talked about being the Best Boss Ever. If you’re a boss you are expected to lead. But, not all bosses are leaders. Not all leaders are bosses either.

Are you a Leader?

You may not be the boss but you can still be a leader. Leadership is a skill not a position. We sometimes here the phrase, “Natural, born leader.” However, that is a misnomer. Some people confuse extreme extroversion or drive or intelligence with leadership. It is true that some leaders have those characteristics, but those characteristics are not the definition of leadership and not all effective leaders have all of them. Effective leadership is influencing people to accomplish things that are good for them and the team even if they don’t see it at first. Another way of defining leadership comes from James C. Hunter, in his book The Servant: A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership. He says that true Leadership is a matter of “Authority”. He defines “Authority” as, “the skill of getting people to willingly do your will because of your personal influence.” Both definitions describe a skill. Since leadership is a skill (or set of skills), it can be learned.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

Some people are said to be leaders because its in their job title. They may or may not actually be leaders. Others lead because it’s who they are. Their job title may be janitor or clerk, but they know how to positively influence people, so they are leaders. The skills that make up a leader are what I call Engager Dynamics. Those “attributes and energies that engage people and transform work” (see my second post, “Employee Engagement: What does that mean?“) fall along two axis of a matrix like the one above. Some of the dynamics fall along the “Challenger” axis and the others along the “Connector” axis.

You can plot your current leadership effectiveness on the matrix.

  1. If you are more concerned about having good relationships with your people and don’t want to rock the boat or upset them too much by challenging them, you may be what I call a “Pacifier.”
  2. I’ve seen people in leadership jobs whom I would call “Avoiders.” These folks tend to stay in their offices and send out emails or texts and make phone calls. They neither challenge nor connect with their people. These are “L-I-N-Os” – Leaders In Name Only.
  3. Then there are the “Dictators.” I’m sure we’ve all met these. They are very high on command and control and have a “Do-it-because-I-said-so” approach. People tend to snap to when this person comes into the room. They work diligently while the leader is present. What happens when the leader leaves? All too often, work suffers while the tension fades from the room.
  4. “Engagers” are people who both Connect with and Challenge their people. These are the ones who tend to be leaders even without the title. Engagers make a personal connection with people. Because of that connection they are able to challenge them to achieve beyond what they’d ever imagined.

What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be?

I said you could plot your “current” leadership effectiveness on the matrix because you can improve your effectiveness by developing the skills called Engager Dynamics. In the next several posts I will describe each of the dynamics and then we’ll talk about how to improve in each one. So if you are currently a Pacifier or Avoider or Dictator, never fear, you can become an Engager.

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