Leadership Isn’t Just About Issuing Orders

Not good, effective, genuinely beneficial leadership at any rate.

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Photo by Mark Stoop on Unsplash

Directions or Directives

Are they guiding the team towards a target or are they demanding their obedience?

Sometimes being a leader means giving orders, it comes with the territory and there can be circumstances where there is no time for debate or explanation. Leadership can’t always be democratic, nor should it be, but when an instruction or order is given is it aimed at achieving a goal or is it merely a task the leader is demanding be completed because they wish it so?

Do They Know Where They Are Going

You can’t lead someone to somewhere unless you have a reliable idea of where that somewhere is.

We can’t always know everything about everything and a leader doesn’t necessarily have to know more than those who are following them. The role of the leader is not to know everything but to guide the efforts of the team towards the goal. And in order to do so they need to have as clear a picture of that goal as possible.

Accountable or Blameless

Good leaders ensure credit for results, either positive or negative, are shared across the entire team including themselves. Bad leaders take personal credit for all positive results, blame others for all negative ones, and are really only interested in issuing their next set of orders.

Things don’t always work out and we all make mistakes regardless of what level of the hierarchy we are at. Leaders make mistakes just like everyone else and it is not their job to be perfect. Even great leaders make mistakes but what makes them great is acknowledging and learning from them and if the mistake was made by members of the team their focus is on guiding them to do the same.

Do They Listen

There is a time and place for input and conversation. The role of a leader is to make sure those times and places are as available as possible.

Even when the path and task is clear people are going to have questions and part of guidance and leadership is trying to ensure those questions get answered. Perhaps not immediately and perhaps not by the leader themselves but at the very least unanswered questions can lead to extra problem which will then need to be solved and at the worst can foster feelings of neglect and resentment.

Do They Delegate

It’s not possible for one person to do everything. The whole point of having a team is to have more sets of hands to complete the necessary work. The role of the leader is to guide and facilitate, not to do it all themselves.

There will always be times when it is necessary for senior members of the team or the leader to step in and take over a task or section of the work. Unforeseen complications, circumstances, time crunches, or any other number of factors can generate a sudden urgency which doesn’t leave room for guidance or training. But the leader stepping in is meant to be a fail-safe not a first or primary approach.

Do They Seek To Learn And Adapt

Those who claim to already know everything they will ever need to know are doomed to be left in the dust of history and can be counted upon to exert great efforts to keep those nearby at least a step behind them.

Some disciplines and circumstances remain relatively stable or grow and evolve rather slowly. Others can change completely and entirely overnight. Sometimes the path to a goal can stay constant and predictable but quite often the path we were working on today can wind up morphing into something almost wholly unrecognizable tomorrow.

Can They Follow

Just as it is not possible to know everything or do everything it is also not possible, or necessary, to be the leader in every situation. Guiding the team does not mean always standing out in front.

In the time of Mark Twain the conditions along the Mississippi river would change so constantly and dramatically it wasn’t possible for one single riverboat captain to master the entire journey. Each captain would master one particular section of the river, navigate their stretch then hand the wheel over to the next captain. Each were still every inch a captain but their best contribution to the team was to cede control to someone else with more relevant expertise.

Success or Winning-Losing

The quickest way to make everything about power rather than actual achievement is to make everything about winning and losing.

Success and winning might seem like very similar things and on the level of achieving a goal they are, but that is where the similarity stops. Success refers to victory over the challenges and obstacles while winning refers to victory over other people.

Who Do The Results Benefit

Effective leaders properly utilize all the processes and approaches to achieving the goal, good leaders ensure the goal itself is actually of genuine value and benefit to the entire team.

Sometimes the work of the team can be in service to much larger or broader team and sometimes the final result can be of varying benefit from one team member to another but a genuinely worthwhile goal will have some value for each member. A good leader not only screens and cultivates the team but also screens potential goals to ensure they are justified and worthwhile.

Do As They Say or As They Do

Part of what can make leadership so isolating is that others not only look to them for guidance but also for example.

Leaders are allowed, they need to be allowed, to make mistakes. Making a mistake does not set a bad example, handling it poorly does. There are perks and privileges which can come with leadership but the caveat attached is being held to a higher standard of conduct. Leaders are needed to be sources of stability in the face of chaos, certainty in the face of the unknown, and determination in the face of hopelessness.

How Often Do They Remind You

This one is a simple one. A leader who needs to constantly remind everyone they are the leader is not a very good leader.

If someone is constantly declaring, flouting, and imposing their status they are doing so because their actions and results will not do it for them. These are the same types of leaders who will demand demonstrative loyalty at every turn because at their core they know they are unable to genuinely inspire it otherwise.

Written by

A professional dancer, choreographer, theatre creator, and featured TEDx speaker with an honours degree in psychology, two black belts, and a lap-top.

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