Leaders are involved in many different and complex relationships. Maintaining perspective and balance in these relationships is important to the continuing growth of the leader, and to those he or she leads. This does not happen by accident. It requires intent, attention, and character.
The Leader’s Intent
Leaders must be self-aware at a high level, and willing to test and judge their own biases and beliefs. Often, leaders will encounter situations where it is not possible to have or know all the answers to a given circumstance. Too bad. No one, leaders included, gets a pass in these situations. When we run up against the unknowable one of our bedrocks must be our intent. What is it I really want to accomplish? How will I contribute? How will I lead in this circumstance? How will I value, empower, and release others to contribute their best? While these are questions which the leader must ask themselves, the answers will be perceived by those they are closest to; and those perceptions will steer attitudes, effort, and enthusiasm. Just the beginning, intent is not enough. It must be exercised through attention and action to be realized.
The Leader’s Attention
Leaders deal with a wide spectrum of issues and must often take a big picture view of things. Regarding the most important things and initiatives they deal with, however, attention to people, process, and detail is critical. This does not mean interfering with others, it does mean staying in touch and being aware of critical pathways and progress. Being in relationship with those executing a plan is important and must be based in trust. If you don’t trust the person doing the job then you’ve got the wrong person, if they don’t trust you transparency and candid discussion is not possible. It is as simple as that. The leader’s job is to make sure that the right people are in the right place, that they are supported, and that they know they can trust and be candid with the leader. Paying attention to our most important relationships is one of a leader’s highest duties. It is not about being friends with everyone, it is about establishing and modeling values of integrity, objectivity, accountability, and trust.
The Leader’s Character
Character is always important, but it comes to the fore in times of crisis. It is in these times that leaders contribute their best and exert greatest influence, not in setting a course of action, but in establishing that character matters most and through it, right strategies and actions can be defined. Character is based in values, which must be emphasized when the chips are down, not compromised as is so often the case. Leaders of high character lead through the values and principles they establish, including in the relationships they have with those around them. By challenging, mentoring, honoring, trusting, and yes, holding accountable those they depend upon. Leaders are not perfect. The good ones know this and pay attention to their key relationships as well as their own character. You can’t look the other way, unless your intent is to avoid the hard work of leading. Don’t be that leader. Be a leader people trust because they trust your character.