the blog Synergy

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What is great leadership? - My summary

I find myself looking back upon the discussion on great leadership that Rosa Say started us on at the beginning of the month. Rosa has painstakingly accumulated the 21 postings that Team Synergy generated on this topic during the month. A review of these and of the dozens of comments that they generated leads me to summarize great leadership.

As I relived the month's postings and comment threads, I found myself coming back to a couple of key points. While I still agree with Buckingham's concept for the one key thing as being clarity but I find that this factor along is not enough. Clarity I think is more a measure of how the leader communicates with his/her team. Measuring clarity should not be that difficult. Recall that for a goal to be SMART it should be measurable.

Clarity is not sufficient. You can have a leader be clear about the direction and head in the wrong way. Will that make the leader great? No.

You can have a leader be clear but if the leader is not flexible enough (contextual intelligence), the bus will end up in a ditch or lost somewhere not able to meet the needs of their market.

But I still struggle with these factors and how they can be measured over time. Time is the one dimension not always given enough credit for its importance, especially in this modern world where generally if it can't be done instantaneously, it is not acceptable. How long will you wait for the page to load? How long will you wait on hold calling for support?

Rosa acknowledges the factor of time:

My post will happen, but I am no longer restricting myself to the window of this month’s time, for I will not post it until I am satisfied with an answer that stirs me to greater actions. I find I am living with this peculiar mixture of patience and urgency as I consider it— that alone is new for me, for I have never sat well with patience.

Troy by sharing that:


acknowledges that this leading occurs over time.

The consistent delivery of quality service, product, or support is determined over time. You can set the expectation today, but live up to it (or down from it) the next time, and the next. Starbucks was not a real phenomenon the first time it opened its door in Seattle. Continuing to open its doors, continuing to deliver enabled Starbucks to grow and demand attention.

Consistency was referenced yesterday by Rocky:

Leadership is being genuine and taking consistent action. It is taking action that others want to follow and emulate.

Clarity, flexibility, and consistency over time develops trust. For me, trust is the one key aspect of a great leader, the one key differentiator of one leader versus another.

Trevor came close to trust in his phrasing of great leadership:

Great leaders are decisive at times when they need to be; they make decisions and they are consistent. The greatest quality is integrity and professionalism. I do not think charisma necessarily equates to good leadership. The best leaders will emerge as those who have done their homework – who have listened to the people around them and led by example. They walk the talk.

Phil also comes close to trust in telling us what he wants when a leader picks up the baton:

Integrity, feedback and a willingness to allow me to work within my strengths zone. I want them to be honest with me about their expectations, to provide me the feedback I need to take things to the next level.

Felix shares that

These three points; a sense of enjoyment-with-others, modelinging work of the team and the inspiration of the leader are for me the basis for real GREAT leadership.

Over the month, (yes, time) I think we have built a consensus on what great leadership is.

Another way to phrase this, is to answer the question are great leaders born or grown? A leader can be anointed or appointed but will only become great by building the trust of their followers or collaborators.

Trust can be broken instantly.

Trust is built up over time.

Trust makes a leader great!

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