I began to wonder how the group participants would identify “good” or effective leadership. From the discussion, I was able to conclude that the participants expect leaders to be able to communicate a clear direction for where the organization is headed and how their individual responsibilities or positions fit into that direction. There was also an expectation that leaders were present when needed, but not overwhelming (controlling) or micro-managing.
Again as I reflect upon the conversations about trust, it becomes very apparent that trust is not something to be taken lightly or that is easily created. However, it is something that is critical to relationships and easily destroyed. Is it any wonder that individuals find it difficult to trust others, to be real and authentic in all they attempt to do in life?
So I asked the participants to provide me with some examples of issues or concerns that they have working with employees or co-workers. As I reviewed those examples, I am again reminded of how important people skills are to a leader and just how uncomfortable some leaders are with these skills.
The most prominent aspect discussed was the issue that individuals in leadership positions do understand that they need to be able to show the way or provide a vision for the organization or the company. What they don’t understand, or at least fail to demonstrate, is that they need to be able to communicate that vision is such a way that the followers see it or “get it”.
I remember wondering why the leader didn't just complete the task and not take up the valuable time of the other group members. While this leader verbalized the desire for group involvement, the leader, due to lack of self-awareness, did not know how or when to step back and engage the expertise of the other group members.
This individual, while doing all the right things and using all the suggestions offered by his/her supervisor, was doing them with an attitude that said, “I’m really better than you because I’m your leader and I know best.”
The one factor that I believe to be the single most influential factor about these leaders is that they were first and foremost human beings trying to do the best job they knew how without creating any more damage or pain to others than was necessary. And when they did create that damage or pain, because it was needed or unintentionally, it was done with compassion and humility.
An area that has been overlooked in leadership development in the past is that of emotional intelligence. However, recent investigation in this arena indicates that effective leaders are individuals who not only know how they feel, but they are capable of capitalizing on those feelings. They utilize their emotions and the understanding of others’ emotions to build a more harmonious workplace and create a stronger sense of team.
Perhaps what people mean by “no leadership” or a “lack of leadership” is not that there are no people in leadership positions, but that the people in those positions are unprepared or ill prepared to be able to provide leadership. Perhaps leadership is less about position and more about working with and influencing others. Perhaps leadership is less about technical knowledge and more about understanding human dynamics.
Much of the discussion was around how to become aware of the power and privilege we have and, as a member of the dominant group, make certain we are trying to integrate all members of our society. As one participant said, we can’t afford to waste or underutilize the rich human resources that exist all around us in everyone.