FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM APRIL 2007
An earnest young man once approached me during a Q & A session, and asked, “What is the ONE THING I need to know to be a great leader?” as if he was searching for the hidden key to unlock the universe. Amused by the simplicity of his question, my answer was equally simple: “To be a great leader, there’s more than ONE THING you need to know about leadership.”
Leadership is not easily reduced into a formula. However, I understand the urge to try to wrap our hands around effective leadership by breaking it down into a manageable set of principles. In my research and study of leadership, one of the better simplifications I have found was developed by the team at the Gallup Organization. After conducting extensive research on leaders across a broad spectrum of careers, Gallup boiled down leadership into seven essential qualities. Their in-depth study culminated in the article, The Seven Demands of Leadership, appearing in the Gallup Management Journal.
In this edition of Leadership Wired, I’d like to review the findings of Gallup’s research, and supplement them with additional thoughts.
The Seven Demands of Leadership
“Successful leaders are able to look out, across, and beyond the organization. They have a talent for seeing and creating the future. They use highly visual language that paints pictures of the future for those they lead. As a result, they seem to attain bigger goals because they create a collective mindset that propels people to help them make their vision a reality.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
The foundation of a vision is reality. Develop a reality statement before creating a vision statement. The reality statement should explain the present situation, the process of pursuing the vision, and the price which must be paid to realize the vision. Be careful not to diminish the vision—it should be bold and daring—but refine the vision until it is realistic and achievable. A lack of realism in the vision today costs credibility tomorrow.
Leaders take the vision from “me” to “we.” They enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams. Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.
When we lose sight of the distinction between our plans and the vision we are pursuing, we set ourselves up for a large dose of discouragement. A vision is a picture of what could and should be. A plan is a guess as to the best way to accomplish the vision. Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.
2. Maximizing values.
“By highlighting what is important about work, great leaders make clear what is important to them in life. They clarify how their own values – particularly a concern for people – relate to their work. They also communicate a sense of personal integrity and a commitment to act based on their values.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
A principle is an external truth that is as reliable as a physical law such as the law of gravity. When Solomon said, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” he stated a principle that is both universal and timeless. Principles are important because they function like a map allowing us to make wise decisions. If we ignore them or deny their reliability, we become like travelers refusing to use a road map because we dispute its accuracy.
While we may acknowledge the reliability of many principles, we only internalize those we deem important. When that happens, the principle has become a value that serves as the internal map we use to direct our lives. A value, then, is an internalized principle that guides our decisions.
3. Challenging Experiences.
“By galvanizing people with a clear vision and strong values, the leaders we studied were able to challenge their teams to achieve significant work goals. In fact, those leaders themselves had been assigned significant challenging experiences at key points in their careers while being given the freedom to determine how they would achieve outcomes.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
When others run from the challenge before them, leaders rise to the challenge before them. English historian Arnold Toynbee has said, “Appropriate response to challenge is the basis for the rise of any society or organization.” A leader’s value to others is to lead them through difficult challenges by providing hope and bestowing courage.
“The leaders we studied consistently had a close relationship either with their manager or someone in the best position to advise them. This is often someone from outside their organization who serves as their mentor.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
Relationships define who we are and what we become. Stick to the confines of self and you’ll remain immature and small. Have the humility to learn from those around you. Identify people’s strengths and uniqueness and inquire about them. When learning is your passion and you value people, teachers will crop up all around you.
5. Building a Constituency
“Beyond close one-to-one relationships, leaders also create rapport at many levels across their organization and beyond. They know the benefits of building a wide constituency…These leaders understand networks and the importance of networking.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
Relationships are precious resources, and leaders accumulate social capital. As it is said, “Your network determines your net worth.” Networkers share experiences, opportunities, and advice, and they connect relationships. By investing in the well-being of others, networkers naturally earn a return as they benefit from the reciprocated generosity of those they have helped.
6. Making Sense of Experience
“In all their relationships, effective leaders enlighten others because they can make sense of experience.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
Experience is to be cherished and absorbed. It comes at a price and once bought, experience should be explored until all its treasure is uncovered. Experience is not the best teacher—evaluated experience is. Reflection turns experience into insight.
“When a person with experience meets a person with money, the person with experience will get the money. And the person with the money will get experience.” ~ Leonard Lauder, president of Estee Lauder
7. Knowing self
“Effective leaders have an acute sense of their own strengths and weakness. They know who they are – and who they are not. They don’t try to be all things to all people. Their personalities and behaviors are indistinguishable between work and home. They are genuine. It is this absence of pretense that helps them connect to others so well.” ~ Gallup Management Journal
Productive leaders have matured to the point of honest self-awareness. They couple knowledge with understanding. They have resources and means, but their grasp of meaning separates them from the pack. They have know-how, but more importantly they know why. Their sight generates insight.
Review: The Seven Demands of Leadership:
Visioning • Maximizing Values • Challenging Experience • Mentoring • Building a Constituency • Making Sense of Experience • Knowing Self
Dr. John C. Maxwell has authored over 30 books, including such New York Times best-sellers as “Failing Forward” and “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.”
FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM APRIL 2007