12 Most Hearty “H” Hallmarks of Great Leaders
“The hallmark of a well-managed organization is not the absence of problems, but whether or not problems are effectively resolved.” – Steve Ventura
Thanks for joining me in the H’s as we walk through this 12 Most ABCs of Leadership series. You can catch up with the prior post at 12 Most Genetic “G” Givens of Great Leaders. And please contribute to the discussion with your own favorite adjectives to describe great leaders.
To be hale is to be robust, vigorous and wholesome. Energy and enthusiasm are contagious, so robust and vigorous leaders enliven the entire organization. And a wholesome personality can drive a trusting team that “deals in trust” with clients.
Hardcore has some interesting connotations, but you will not see vulgarities in a great leader! What you will see is a steadfast leader with uncompromising principles and a single-minded purpose: Sustainable organizational success.
It is great to have a single-minded purpose; however, achieving that purpose does not happen without some elbow-grease. Leaders know how to delegate to reach higher levels of success through scalability, but they also lead by example with their own hard work ethic.
In many cases, the great leader is not the first one at the helm. A great leader’s first task may be the healing of a wounded organization. Predecessors may have mismanaged the company and left it in disarray with low morale, low self-esteem, and a deep-seated mistrust for leadership. Great leaders know how to blend gentleness with firmness, and a steady dose of honesty, to inject confidence back into an organization.
Can you tell that I favor the enthusiastic leader? Competence and experience are absolutely necessary for a successful leader. However, a charismatic and ebullient leader builds an excitement within an organization that can carry it to greatness. It is that extra passion and belief that carries teams through the tough times with unwavering resolve. I love this quote attributed to Henri Frederic Amiel: “Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.” Be the spark to ignite the possibilities!
Here’s another glimpse into the heart of this Texan: Be Hellacious! Hellacious leaders are awesome, proficient and downright transcendent. Lance Armstrong was hellaciously transcendent in winning 7 Tour De France races. Tim Tebow has a lot of work ahead to become a decent quarterback in the NFL, but he is already a transcendent leader. A guy named Steve Jobs didn’t do too shabby either – and he built a transcendent company.
When describing helpful leaders, I cannot top this quote by Admiral James B. Stockdale: “What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”
Focus on being helpful, and authority will take care of itself.
I originally chose heterogeneous for this post because great leaders bring diverse backgrounds that equip them for leading diverse organizations to achieve common goals. What caught my eye was one of the synonyms: motley. Historically, you could identify court jesters by their motley costumes. Even though these jesters were also known as “fools”, they actually served as both advisors and emissaries. They could “couch their critiquing” of leaders in humor, so they could avoid the punishments inflicted upon other bearers of bad news.
Great leaders may couch their critiquing in humor and anecdotes. Perhaps they even teach through insightful self-deprecation based upon past failures. The goal is to set aside egos, learn, and then achieve!
Virginia Woolf said “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” Honest leaders are transparent. They know their own strengths, and they admit to their own failures and shortcomings. Employees can respect that honesty and self-assessment, so they are more likely to listen to these leaders and rally around them. Woe to the leaders who get caught in a lie.
Take Mark Twain’s advice – “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Perhaps I read too many knight’s tales as a kid, but I always equate honorable with chivalrous, righteous and unstained. My father died during active duty when I was four years old, and my grandparents gave me a plaque that shaped my viewpoint on honor. It had a poem from an Anonymous source:
You got it from your father,
It was all he had to give,
So it’s yours to use and cherish,
For as long as you may live.
If you lose the watch he gave you,
It can always be replaced,
But a black mark on your name son,
Can never be erased.
It was clean the day you took it,
And a worthy name to bear,
When he got it from his father,
There was no dishonor there.
So be sure you guard it wisely,
After all is said and done,
You’ll be glad the name is spotless,
When you give it to your son.
Great leaders do not have the luxury of just making popular decisions. They also make the tough decisions. The economy and company performance, or recent merger/acquisition, may require the dreaded RIF (reduction in force). Great leaders handle those tough times as humanely as possible. They balance empathy for the individuals with the greater responsibility owed to the organization.
What can I say – I like humility as a personal attribute. That is somewhat ironic because I’ve had times in my career where I was thought to be cocky (I always preferred the expression “confidently competent”). Here is my advice…don’t be cocky!! Know what you know, be willing to accept there are things you do NOT know, and know there is someone out there better than you…always! Respectfully ask advice, get more training, and be a mental sponge at all times.
Learn, and then turn around and teach! Focus on this cycle of learning and humility, and you will have a satisfying career while most likely assuming greater leadership roles.
Did you notice “heroic” did not make the list? Heroic sometimes implies herculean efforts. The issue with that approach is that it relies on individual skills and determination to the point that the results cannot be duplicated by others. Our goals as leaders should be to create self-sustaining organizations that become capable of running without us! Napoleon Bonaparte might have pointed out the most important aspect of leadership when he said “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
Here are some 12 “H” adjectives to avoid in your career: Hallucinating, hapless, hardheaded, harping, haughty, heinous, hesitant, hibernating (closed door policy until you come out charging like a bear), hierarchical (to the point of becoming unapproachable), hindering, horrendous, and hostile.
What H’s would you heartily add to this list?
Featured image courtesy of takomabibelot licensed via Creative Commons.