Sometimes, the responsibility of leadership and serving as a leader is a lonely undertaking – especially if you are the only one embracing your vision.

Now, before you think this article is for business only, keep in mind that leadership applies to everyone in every part of their lives.
We’ve all seen or heard of stories of leadership gone awry. In the UK, a mother was in court trying to retain custody of her son, who is morbidly obese and just 10 years old. She was feeding him to death. Her lack of leadership could have cost her son his life.

Being well intended does not necessarily mean modeling great leadership.

A school board banned all cell phones and electronic devices in school during school hours. The devices were not only distracting students, but they were also being used to cheat, and to bully other students and faculty members. As expected, the board’s new “use it and lose it” policy did not sit well with the students. The real shocker came when many parents attacked the board for the policy. The board had demonstrated leadership; the parents, however, did not.

Leadership is not about being popular, but being committed to principles and vision – no matter what the costs.

As a parents of two adults, my wife and I remember the daily discussions about their desires and our guidelines years ago. In their younger years, there was times when peer influence on our children went counter to our leadership teachings. I am certain that if we did not make a consistent effort to show leadership then, our children would not be as mature as they are today.

As a past school board chair, I have experienced, firsthand, the cost of lack of leadership in families. In general, children of parents who show little or no leadership are more disruptive, less inclined to learn, less respectful, and lacking in self-discipline.

In one case, custody of two young children was transferred from unfit parents to the grandparents. That change helped transform the behavior of the children – both under 10 – from being unmanageable to respectful and disciplined, and then becoming two top students who really love school. The difference was the leadership example shown by the mature grandparents.

Many years ago, I was called to resolve a dispute between a credit union board and its long-term general manager. After much investigation, the conflict came down to one issue – lack of leadership by the credit union board. The board avoided or deferred decisions that were difficult or controversial. That lack of leadership completely frustrated the general manager, because he could not operate or grow the organization.

Here are some leadership characteristics that Jim Collins researched for his book, Good to Great.
Great leadership, in business or in personal life, has an unceasing commitment to the goal – not the ego – of the leaders.

These leaders are incredibly ambitious – not out of self-interest, but rather for the fulfillment of their vision. This style of leadership is dedicated to the process until success is attained. Quitting is not an option!

Slightly different from pure optimism, this leadership style is committed to the vision – no matter how long it takes.

Effective leadership is committed to acknowledging the brutal facts.

According to recent research, more than one-third of North American children are now obese – yet less than 20% of their parents acknowledge that their child is overweight. Unless they confront the facts, these parents – by their absence of leadership – are severely hindering the future health of their children.

The credit union board needed to admit that it had a leadership style deficiency. The board was more concerned about what its members and others would think than about the overall success of the organization. That was the brutal fact.

Leaders will be criticized for blazing a new trail.

In the past 30 years, I have been challenged on the vision and direction of my company. Although I appreciate insight and seek wise counsel, in the end, it is my decision and my decision alone that counts; after all, it is my company! I feel comfortable and confident with our direction, and don’t have the time or energy to worry about dissenting opinions.
If you have absolutely no negative feedback on your leadership – from parenting to business decisions – you need to determine whether you are truly modeling leadership or taking the safe route, like the credit union board.

Leaders know where they are going and what they stand for. Do you?

The ability to hold fast to a vision while letting go of ego is a cornerstone of great leadership. What other traits do you feel are equally important in propelling good leaders into exceptional leadership status? Let us know!