Leadership fundamentals is a rich subject. Countless leadership concepts and techniques are available at our fingertips.
We all tend to have fundamental ideas about leadership we learned from what we read and from others who are leaders in our lives. We often unwittingly generalize leadership fundamentals from our experiences and behavior we learned from other leaders. From these ideas we build our unique mental model of leadership.
Eventually, all leaders find situations where their mental model of leadership fails. I submit such times should invoke in us careful inspection of our leadership model. But who has time for that, and how does one do that anyway? Unfortunately, doing so isn’t naturally intuitive so we may have to think a little deeper and be a little more persistent in the process.
You the Person
The first leadership fundamentals are about you, the person. I argue all other leadership fundamentals hinge on how well leaders master this category.
There are three of you to be concerned with:
- The you that is within you – whom you feel you ought to be.
- The other you is who you actually are and you are aware of. These two of you aren’t always the same.
- The third you, which is who others see and whom you might not be aware of. The third you can differ significantly from the first two because the third you is what others interpret from your behavior and words.
Getting the first two of you in sync with each other is probably your most important and ongoing objective, and it starts with being honest with yourself. This is contrary to one tendency in our nature, which is to rationalize away criticism from the most important critic, you. When we rationalize we tend to blame others and/or the situation to cast off accountability and responsibility for change.
Leadership Fundamentals of Emotion
The consistency between what you believe and how you implement what you believe is important. But it is also important to refrain from showing negative emotions or any emotion in the extreme. Not doing so will damage the third you; how others view you. You will find consistent regulation of your emotions to be an important leadership fundamental. Daniel Goleman calls this having emotional intelligence.
The last fundamentals I wish to touch upon here involve mastering the third you, the public you that others perceive. Referring once again to Daniel Golemen, he would call a healthy public you as having social intelligence. First and foremost, the public you starts with a fundamental of leadership that is a hallmark of what leadership accomplishes: turning chaos into order. How this relates to others is that an effective leader is always on the lookout for chaos, for problems to solve, and when people are involved there will always be problems.
The Sensitive You
A good leader is by nature a problem solver. This means he or she is sensitive to issues members of the team might have whether they say so or not. The lack of complaining about problems is not evidence there are no problems. Your team may not feel comfortable telling you about problems so you’ll need to be able to detect when this is so and making it clear it is safe to speak out.
Be aware that it is often easier to view those informing you about problems or offering dissenting views, as the source of the problem. Get rid of the squeaky wheel and problem solved, right? Not really, as if wheels could choose to be silent, you might not realize the other wheels have problems until they break. When the wheels break the mission grinds to a miserable halt.
This leads to another fundamental: ensure everyone on your team feels valued and are able to contribute.
Merge Diversity into Strength
The mission you are chartered to accomplish requires your team, so each individual is a most valued asset. Categorizing others is our natural tendency, but doing so damages the public you and detracts significantly from effective leadership.
I suggest that you always bear in mind that highlighting differences in others can invoke our tendency to categorize (stereotype) others. We tend to label others and when we do those labels often persist. Strive to avoid doing this. Never draw quick and final conclusions about people unless absolutely necessary. Moreover, you must scrutinize the origins and validity of any conclusion you draw about someone. Chances are there is a different and possibly more accurate interpretation than what originally you came up with.
Effective leaders strive to keep themselves in check, and realize there are three aspects of themselves to be concerned with.
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