As I have been thinking and blogging about leadership, a number of qualities of what makes a good leader have been suggested to me or have emerged in my own mind.
The first three I have addressed in my “Powerful Leadership #’s 1 and 2″ posts.
1. good listener
2. able to accept healthy compromise
The items that have been added to my list, I comment on briefly below:
I touched on compassion in speaking about listening, when I said, “If I am to listen deeply I need to be willing to enter into your world, to see life from your perspective and to acknowledge that your experience of the world is valid and worthy of respect just as much as mine.”
Compassion is not the ability to feel sorry for another person. Compassion is the ability to truly enter another person’s life experience and see the world through their eyes. The root of compassion is the conviction that there is no difference between myself and any other person.
The leader is not separate from those he seeks to lead. True leadership emerges from the awareness that we are all one. There is no hierarchy in the human community. Leader and led are completely equal.
Leadership is not something the leader does to the person she is leading. True leadership means joining with the person being led in the process of discovering the best way forward together. Leader and led are inextricably linked. Like forgiving and forgiveness, leading and being led are complementary realities. The one cannot be fully realized without the other. They fulfill each other in a mutual dance of cooperation and compassion.
This quality was suggested in a comment on my original “Powerful Leadership” post. Fair-mindedness suggests that the leader has an ability to step aside from bias, prejudice and personal agenda. The powerful leader is not driven by personal wishes or by conformity to a particular ideology or group within the community. The powerful leader is always able to step back from personal self-interest, or narrow tribal prejudice and see a larger picture.
Fair-mindedness requires that the leader be open to more than one perspective. The powerful leader understands that there is always more than one way of seeing any situation. True leadership requires that the leader be open to different ways of understanding the world.
For the fair-minded leader there are no questions that cannot be asked, no assumptions that cannot be challenged. The fair-minded leader believes deeply that the wisdom of the collective surpasses that of any one individual. The goal of the fair-minded leader is to help uncover that collective wisdom.
The powerful leader understands that more is accomplished by yielding than by forcing.
The powerful leader is able to be gentle because he understands that there is a flow to life. The goal of leadership is not to force the flow, but to identify it and cooperate with the flow that is taking place. There is an energy in circumstances. When we find the energy and support it, we discover that the deep reality of life is guiding us to transformation and new life.
Transformation does not come about as a result of force. No community is enriched by being abused, manipulated, or badgered with guilt. Life-giving change takes place in an atmosphere of kindness.
True power comes to the person who resists the temptation to seize power and trusts the force of gentleness.
Powerful leadership does not keep secrets. We are seldom well served by hiding.
There may be occasions when a leader needs to withhold certain pieces of information. But, for the most part, powerful leadership will be biased towards absolute transparency. The powerful leader will trust that the people he is responsible for leading are adult enough to handle the truth of their situation. They do not need to be protected from reality. We are always better equipped as both leaders and led when we operate in the light.
Secrets and deception do not serve the well-being of any community. Power comes to the leader who has the least need to hide. The more information available to a community, the better able that community is to make decisions that will lead to the greatest good for everyone involved.
Powerful leaders pay close attention to what is going on and respond to the realities of life as they are unfolding. They are able to change direction in response to what is happening.
This does not mean they are unstable and changeable. They are not simply awaiting the latest wave of popular opinion and then surfing that wave until it runs out. They are rooted in deeply held convictions. But, because of the solid ground of their convictions, they are able to adapt and be flexible to the circumstances in which their leadership is being exercised.
Responsiveness and flexibility are closely related; but the concept is so important it is worth the risk of being repetitive.
In the complicated world in which we live, the inflexible leader will never survive. Dictators are always overthrown eventually. And, even while the tyrant continues in power, the energy of the organization they are leading only produces death. Every person is diminished in an organization dominated by a tyrant.
Flexibility is not weakness. it is stronger than rigidity. It has the ability to find new ways when old ones are no longer working. The flexible leader is not bound to outmoded ways of thinking or functioning. When, unexpected eventualities occur, the flexible leader is able to adjust and find new ways of doing things without sacrificing the core values of her leadership.
10. is able to live with chaos
Most of us are afraid of chaos. We will do almost anything to convince ourselves and others that we are in control. It is tempting to put our faith in a leader who manages to convince us he can bring order out of chaos.
But, if we are honest, we know that chaos always lurks just beyond the edge of our fragile attempts to maintain control over the forces of life. There is a thin line between our feeble efforts to keep order and the raging forces swirling around our protective little illusions.
The powerful leader knows that chaos is always a present reality. But, in spite of this knowledge, the powerful leader is not afraid. The leader’s power resides in this quality of peace in the midst of uncertainty and confusion. The true power of the leader is the power to stand steady when everything and everyone seems to be in turmoil. The powerful leader is secure within himself and that security is the source of his leadership.