With the election cycle in full swing, and the seemingly endless Presidential debates at hand, it is fair to ask what makes a good Leader. What traits do we expect a Leader to have? What do we admire in our leaders? What qualities do we want to avoid in our leaders? What generates our respect and our willingness to follow?
It is not enough to say that our leaders should “lead.” What does that mean exactly? In a certain sense they all want to lead, but where are they trying to take us? What message is their leadership style sending? Are they willing to lead us in a good way?
It is also not enough to say that they should “inspire.” What does that mean as well? If they inspire you, I guess you would, of course, want to follow. Not all inspiration is filled with positive messages or moves in the right direction. Will we know a good leader when one comes along?
Perhaps at the top of my list would be “trustworthy.” Can we trust someone to do a good job? Will they always look out for the best interests of the nation, the community, the local parish or whatever group they are asked to lead? This trait speaks to the virtue of honesty. If we trust someone, then we must believe deep down that they are honest. They will not steal or take advantage of their position. They will not use their position of authority to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Do you trust your leaders?
A good leader must also be a “problem solver.” Every organization will have it challenges along the way and the solutions are not necessarily apparent. This is where a good problem solver is important.
It is not that the leader needs to solve the problem himself or herself, it is that they must know the best way to get to the answers that are being sought. In this regard, leadership might be stepping aside to let someone else step in to handle an issue.
To lead a person must also be self-confident. In this manner some may come across as cocky or arrogant, which could indeed be the case. However, one who lacks confidence in what he does can never be a good leader. Indecision will creep in as the dominant trait. Then the leader will find himself following others, falling prey to advice that may not be in the best interests of all.
Passion is important for those at the top of an organization. I have seen it often at the local level where leaders either do not feel passionate about what they do, or have lost that passion as the years wore on.
Just because you are a good leader in one decade, doesn’t mean that you will be a good leader in the next. Our diocese has a habit of moving successful pastors from one location to another, but success in one place doesn’t mean success at another. Sometimes a problem arises when the so-called leader does not share the same passion for the next assignment as he did for the previous one.
Leaders must be resilient. They must have the ability to “roll with the punches,” as the saying goes. Some do not take real or perceived criticism well. Their downside begins to show when their side of things indeed seems to be down.
One thing for sure — a leader will face criticism. Not all will agree with everything that is said or done. It’s inevitable. A new leader may enjoy a “honeymoon” period of no criticism, but it won’t last. If you’re President of the United States, it will be brief indeed.
A leader needs vision. He or she must have a clear idea of what it is they should do and how they’ll get there. Again, this doesn’t mean the leader has to do it all. A leader with vision will inspire others to work hard to help a vision become reality. If your vision doesn’t inspire others, you may need to rethink it.
A leader must effectively manage others, especially subordinates in the work place. This means training, coaching, guiding and building up the resources of the organization, town, state, or country through hard work and careful planning. “My way or the Highway” is not an effective leadership style, although I have seen some try to use it on the local level. It is not what any organization needs and in fact tends to drive away good people.
Problems should be seen as fixable, not something to avoid at all costs. Some so-called leaders would choose the path of least resistance. If they avoid something where there might be even the slight chance of failure or disappointment, they are not leading at all. This is like the “prevent defense” in football. Sometimes that prevents you from winning.
A good leader also is a good listener. I’m sure you’ve heard “no one learns anything new when he’s talking.” A leader knows when and how to listen. A leader knows which questions to ask to get the information to understand the issues and seek the right course of action.
Recently I sat down with a local pastor to discussion an event that he felt did not go well in every aspect. At least I thought it was going to be a discussion. Instead it was an unpleasant hour listening to his negative point of view of certain aspects of the event. I’m not sure he listened to anything I said. He could just as well have had the conversation over coffee with himself. I’m not sure why I bothered to talk at all.
Are your leaders listening? Do they care what you think? Will they serve your interests? As local and national elections near, what traits should your elected officials have? As you join community organizations, what traits do you want to see in their leadership?
I had a long commute and I’d been buying audiobooks for a few years from Books On Tape and Recorded Books.
Books On Tape had recently announced they were discontinuing non-institutional services. Bummer. Recorded Books didn’t have much of a selection and were expensive.
Audible was a relatively new concept. Downloading was slow, but the price was good. For $16.95, I could have two books a month. I would own them, but wouldn’t have to store them. They were digital files and would be stored in my library on Audible’s server.
Twelve years later, I have close to a thousand books in my Audible library. A few have disappeared. They may be there somewhere, but the search engine can’t find them and I don’t remember what they were. It doesn’t matter. There are so many.
A few years ago, Amazon bought Audible. For once, I was unperturbed by the acquisition. Amazon and I have had a great relationship since Amazon was an online bookstore selling real books. Kindles and e-books didn’t exist. The closest thing to an e-book was a PDF file.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
Audible is bigger and better. Higher quality audio files, many more books. Famous actors and brilliant narrators. Almost every book from any publisher has an audio version. You can buy twinned Kindle and Audible books that synchronize. That’s overkill for me, but I often own both versions because listening and reading are different experiences. I listen, then read, then listen again. My eyes are increasingly reluctant to focus on print, so I listen more, read less. Audible has become primary and reading is now an alternative to listening.
Times change. I’ve changed.
Late the other night, already tucked in bed, I decided to select this month’s audiobooks. I still have the original plan I subscribed to. New subscribers pay more, but I’m “grandfathered.” The only thing I don’t have that newer plans include are “rollover” credits. I have to use my credits within the month or lose them. Technically, anyhow. The only time I didn’t use them — I didn’t forget, but I was in the hospital — they gave the credits back and threw in a couple of extra because I’d been sick.
This month, I wanted two books, both not yet released. Pre-orders. The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey, Book Six in the Sandman Slim series, to be released on August 26th. And The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison, the 13th and final book in The Hollows series, to be released September 9th. I ordered the books using this month’s credits. Except when I completed the order, I had a credit left. I figured that meant they would charge the book to my credit card on delivery. I cancelled the order and redid it. Same thing happened.
It was 1:30 in the morning, but I knew I could call Audible and get this fixed. Unlike other customer service, I like calling Audible. Even before they become part of the Amazon family, they were friendly folks who wanted to make you happy.
A nice lady answered. I explained what happened. She said: “Let’s make this simple. I’ll just put the Kim Harrison book in your library. You keep the extra credit. Have a nice night. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
I double-checked: “You mean, I actually have an extra credit?”
“Yes, you do. I put The Witch With No Name into your library. When it’s released, you will automatically receive it. You can use your other credit for whatever you like.” Indeed, the book was already in my library. I ordered another book.
I was smiling. How often do you smile after talking to customer service?