Real Leadership is Transparent

What makes a good leader?

There is nothing new here. Millennia Plato said, "All knowledge is obtainable, one must just retrieve it." The following confirms what you probably already know about leadership, but it aims at evoking a few important thoughts.

There are hundreds of studies that focus on what makes a good leader. They point most frequently to abilities such as:

  • Listening
  • Attracting and retaining excellent people
  • Building good teams
  • Bringing out the best in people
  • Being supportive
  • Communicating openly and honestly
  • Making decisions on his/her own

Yet, good leadership is not very common. So if great leadership is so important to business success, why is it so uncommon? What is so difficult about it? Just knowing the above attributes doesn't make anybody an excellent leader; it must go deeper than that.

The most important thing a good leader must learn is to understand the meaning of personal responsibility and accountability and how they are rooted in personal free will. Leading requires particular ownership of this concept. Transparent leadership occurs when I, as the leader, personally decide to make commitment to acting with responsibility. To be a leader for others, I first need to be a leader in my own life, myself, my family, my community, my financial stability, and my career. I need to be aware of the danger that I will constrain the spirit of good leadership. I could become so fixated on the goal that I cannot enjoy doing it, by trying too hard to maintain control so that the destination is more important than the journey. The same will happen if I don't act congruently, if my internal truth doesn't match my external behavior.

There are strategic and personal sides of leadership. The strategic side deals with product positioning, market penetration, finance, and legal issues; it includes mergers and acquisitions, floating loans and issuing shares; it involves internal dimensions like organization structure, reporting relationships, project management, assessment, compensation and benefits. The personal side of leadership involves the leader's values, motivation, maturity, will power, freedom, creativity, ethics, culture, responsibility and authority, loyalty, commitment, self-sacrifice, courage, love and heroism.

We make a mistake by disregarding the personal side of leadership, thinking that human beings will improve if the system changes. A leader may think that what is needed for improvement is more strategic leadership when the root problem could be leader's own depression, burnout and the unwillingness to generate internal energy and enthusiasm required to motivate the entire organization. The solution may not at all be getting more data or implementing a new system, but to have a fresh outlook and new resolve. And this transformation occurs on the personal, not on the strategic side of leadership.

Business is a vehicle to achieve personal and organizational growth.

At the same time, business equals people. Where people grow, profits grow. But we often forget - and even if we remember, we sometimes fail - to lead people with genuine respect. People spend many important years of their lives at work; it should provide fulfillment for them, not anxiety. If I as a leader am not creating a supportive culture of learning and growth for every person to become more valuable, what is the alternative? Wasted minds, people who are uncommitted, annoyed and bored? This is a dreary prospect.

Leadership does not take place in a vacuum, its pre-requisite is people - and the ability to build effective teams is at its core. A good leader has skills of combining aggressive personal ambitions, freedom of thoughts and individual resourcefulness. On the other hand, s/he is able to think in terms of cooperation, communication, doing things together, motivating people, challenging them to grow, and supporting them. The leader is a teacher, not leading only by creating systems and assigning work, but also by helping people to develop themselves further. Effective empowerment is based on a simple formula. It is the product of autonomy, direction, and support. This is the formula for leadership of an effective organization for today, and tomorrow.

"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows."

Epictetu

So how does one teach leadership? Classrooms, books, lectures, and discussions provide important knowledge. But we learn best from experience - by doing what we want to learn and through observing behavior in our teachers. Before I as a leader can teach leadership to others, I must first be a master of my own life. I must choose, through my own free will, to commit to acting as a role model for accountability and responsibility. This is real leadership - transparent leadership.

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