What’s the Single Greatest Attribute a Leader Must Possess?
Some of you will offer up communication, listening intently, provide wisdom, guidance, and discernment, other’s will state perseverance, determination, critical problem solving. All of those adjectives are sound practices but they’re not what separates a good leader from a great leader. We all lead well when the environment is calm, smooth running and operationally sound. When the element of ‘scorched earth’ is added – crisis, stress, pressure, deadlines, a significant event or a catastrophe – only then do we see a leaders true colors. These habits and behaviors also mirror what goes on in our personal lives as well.
Take the attempted assassination of then President Ronald Reagan. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy made himself the largest possible target spread eagle taking a bullet for the president. McCarthy is only one of four such agents to do so. Six shots rang out in less than 2 seconds and one hit the president in his lung one inch from his heart. McCarthy was trained to be courageous. Another example occurred over two thousand years ago. An early thirty-something who went spread eagle as well. He made himself the target for all of us, even though with one call, He could have put Himself at the mercy of His creation, and spare his own life.
Courage is running into a burning building to save people, it’s running towards gunfire in Afghanistan to save your brothers, it’s shielding others from harm and it’s having your people’s back even if they don’t have yours quite yet. Yes, courage is the single greatest attribute a leader can possess. Why?
It takes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual courage to lead a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs, whether that’s 10, 100 or 10,000. The Elegant Leader is response-able for them – ALL of them. It takes unparalleled moral courage to stand up for your people. It takes courage to be the lightning rod of the public’s wrath.
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C.S. Lewis
Every leader is tested over time, internally and externally and in that test, it takes courage to pass the test. Elegant Leaders take responsibility for things that aren’t their responsibility. The Elegant Leader with Voltage understands the rhythm of ego, results and relationships. They ‘get it’ they’re just the ‘calling card’ of their company and many pairs of eyes are watching their every move. They’re not looking for the proverbial ‘shoe to drop’ (although some people are). Employees are starved to be led, to have someone acknowledge their contribution, to recognize their level of engagement, or not. The leader who gets it right is the one who ‘washes the feet’ instead of ‘washing his hands’ of any situation.
Elegant Leaders are not People Pleasers. They don’t blow with the wind or change courses on a whim, going with the crowd to be or to remain popular. They understand what success is and how everyone contributes to that success.
Elegant Leaders Don’t Compromise Their Integrity. If you want to please people, you will offend the one who made you. And If you please Him, then you will offend people. You cannot have it both ways! Elegant Leaders do not absolve themselves of responsibility. They don’t abdicate their roles as professional leaders and operators, nor do they abdicate their role as family leaders either. Those that do are duplicitous and in time will be found out as frauds.
When we fail to use our voice, we lose our voice.
Back in the early 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a Birmingham, Alabama jail challenging his white peers to step up, step in and speak out on racial discrimination. He was criticized for it – of course. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Dr. King. He abhorred his white brothers to ‘not wash their hands by doing nothing.’ When we fail to use our voice, we lose our voice. Courage is to call it like we see it!
Elegant Leaders are not Cautious, they’re courageous; they are not defenders of status quo. Dr. King went on to say, “we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words of bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people.” It takes courage to speak up, stand up and step in!
Elegant Leaders with Voltage are Prominent. They’re known for what they’re for more than for what they’re against. Silence is cowardly. We will be judged one day by our words and most certainly by our silence. Where were you when…? Speak up when everyone else is mute. Say what needs, what must be said. It’s far more than pointing OUT the problem. It’s rallying around together and becoming part of the solution. Some of you will misinterpret the context here, so there’s your disclaimer – understand the context before and after the well-known verse. Jesus told us to turn the other cheek. That takes courage to do so and to show the other cheek. He did not tell us to turn away and accept it. Go read it again.
An Elegant Leader with Voltage works to do the right thing at the right time with the right intent for the right reason with no expectation of reciprocity.
Their model is to do what is right in the face of ‘scorched earth’. To set the example for others to follow. To stand beside one another and face the slings and arrows of outrageous scorn. People, followers, will adjust their behaviors to mirror the behavior of others. We model and mirror everything from attitudes to idiosyncrasies, and we rarely know we’re even doing it. These norms are part and parcel of the environment you live and work in every day. What filter are you using to measure appropriate from not? Is it your conscience? Or is their a key to your own personal moral courage?
Andrew Jackson said, “One man with courage makes a majority.”