There is a myriad of theories and concepts on the subject of leadership and what are the attributes, attitudes and styles that enable us to identify the various characteristics of good leaders.
Good leaders are, of course, needed in all walks of life and we take for granted that nature will provide a sufficient supply to meet the demands in the world of sport, politics, economics, business, the spiritual and social world.
We have certain expectations of leaders. We need them to “Be there” for us when circumstances demand and to reassure us that whatever the situation or problem, they would instinctively know how to address and resolve it. Otherwise, we take their presence for granted and expect they will not unnecessarily intrude unless and until circumstances requiring “A Leader” is demanded.
What Do We Expect From Leaders?
But what about when they are present? What do we expect of them and from them and, perhaps, equally interesting, what do they expect of themselves?
What a leader says in addressing our concerns ought to be important. Sometimes it is, Sometimes it falls short of our expectation. We expect a leader will express:
- a sense of comprehension about the issue;
- a real concern to ascertain the facts of the situation if not already aware of them;
- a clear methodology for ascertaining the facts;
- a readiness to listen to those who can contribute to an understanding of the situation;
- a capacity to readily grasp and understand the complexity of situations;
- a capacity to express guidance or direction in a clear, lucid, succinct and coherent manner.
- a capacity to demonstrate empathy in given circumstances would add considerable value where appropriate.
Experience in the business or political world will show evidence of each of those traits and more. Yet our assessments and judgements of leaders can be very unforgiving. We see them as too distant, haughty, conceited, arrogant, impersonal, incoherent, inarticulate and inept. We also, fortunately see many excellent examples of the contrary. We hear powerfully stimulating and riveting speeches and commentaries from political and business figures that are encouraging and inspiring and we are appreciative of how they build confidence in us to continue with our particular endeavors, projects, missions and enterprises.
Do we notice what is not said? How important is it when we are anticipating some words of comfort, consolation, condolence or , perhaps, encouragement, recognition or acknowledgement of an achievement or effort (even if the mission was not accomplished), and the Leader says nothing?
What is unsaid by those in leadership roles can be just as important and, on occasions more so, than what is said.
What Is Being Said/Unsaid
What is frequently missed is the weight that the listener places on what is said or unsaid. The listener in a subordinate role to the leader rarely hears an individual “Boss”, be it Jane or Joe, say anything when it comes to official communication. What they hear is “The Boss” or, “the Leader” if you prefer. Leaders need to be conscious and very mindful of that fact. The may feel that they are heard and understood by their staff as they would be by a friend or colleague on the golf course or in a restaurant but the difference in the relationship distorts how we hear things from those who occupy a position of leadership or authority over us. There are subtle, invisible lines drawn that even though an encounter of meeting has moved off-site to neutral ground, the perception of the authority lines have not been neutralised. Hence, the importance and necessity to retain even in informal settings, a sense of propriety about how one might express oneself. It is not Jane or Joe who will be heard…it will be authority figure.
If some action has been accomplished satisfactorily and the participants feel they have measured up to the occasion, they will, perhaps, anticipate and certainly appreciate a word of recognition and praise. They will often quote and cite this acknowledgement to their family, friends, work colleagues and indeed, when subsequently going for a promotion or retiring. It is a very important and significant event in their relationship with their leaders and in their work-life.
When there is nothing said in such circumstances, the significance does not diminish and, depending on the circumstances, can increase, perhaps disproportionately and similarly be relayed to work-colleagues, friends, family just as the positive recognition was transmitted.
Sometimes those in leadership roles can short-sighted when it comes to recognizing the long-term rewards and benefits of taking the time to pay attention to the “Small stuff”. Sometimes, individuals feel it is too trivial for their attention and that they have more important matters to address. Some things are. It is very important to take the time to differentiate and be in a position to tell the difference. It can be the difference between being, “A Leader”, “A Good Leader”, and “A Great Leader”.