Leadership is, without question, one of the most widely discussed topics in our contemporary business and professional culture. Scholarly types have offered numerous theories regarding the identification and development of potential leaders and their focus has often been on leadership traits, leadership style, and leadership performance. How effective leaders provide direction, how they implement plans, and especially how they motivate others are among the most highly valued, observed, and examined characteristics of leadership practice.
Fundamentally, most practitioners would agree that effective leadership requires the organization of people to achieve a common objective. The ultimate value and quality of such leadership is determined by the effectiveness of outcomes for the organization and the balancing of individual interests with those of the entire membership. Our nation’s 33rd President is remembered as a plain-spoken but poignant communicator and he certainly had an interesting perspective and straight forward description of leadership:
“I learned that a great leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.”—Harry S. Truman
I agree with President Truman and I appreciate his simplicity and candor. As I reflect upon my own professional journey, I have been privileged to work with and for some exemplary and remarkable leaders. As I continue to look back, through the rear-view mirror of my professional experience, the leaders that stand out were not the product of any theoretical perspective or individual leadership style. They were all intelligent, disciplined, and professionally dedicated and they had their own unique personalities and style. However, what set them apart was their ability to inspire. I didn’t follow their lead because I had to but because I wanted to. And yes, as I reflect, there were times when their leadership motivated me to do what I didn’t particularly want to do and to appreciate it because it was appropriate and served the best interest of the larger organization.
These great leaders were men and women who led by example and when defining moments came, they stepped up and stood out!