What is Leadership Anyway?

Honestly, you can find a million articles online about leadership and what makes a good leader.  I intentionally did not look at any of those articles before writing this blog.

A couple weeks ago, I spent a weekend helping lead the CSI NW Region Leadership Training.  This Leadership weekend is held annually.  We invite two up-and-coming leaders from each Chapter in the region for an all-expenses paid weekend to learn all about leadership in CSI.  The weekend consists of a variety of sessions to better prepare these people to take on the responsibilities of leading their chapters.

I attended this leadership weekend myself just three short years ago and it was invaluable in starting me off on the right foot in my rather mercurial rise in CSI.

For this year’s weekend, I was tasked with leading a somewhat lengthy session that required each participant and leader to take a personality test and then evaluate those results.  I spent quite some time thinking about how I wanted this session to go down.  Since I feel interactive sessions get the most engagement from participants, I decided that we would all take the test, read the results, evaluate whether we felt they were accurate and then discuss what roles within CSI might be best suited to that personality type.

This was a very interesting exercise.  The 50 question test caused some angst for the participants because there seemed to be some very similar questions that were worded differently and many that really did not have a black and white answer yet you were required to pick one that most closely fit you and your personality.

What I found particularly interesting, as we started to go around the room and read the results, was:

  1. Every single person in the room felt their results were pretty spot on. Including me.
  2. Almost everyone had a different personality type. We only had a couple doubles in the room.

My results pegged me as a “Giver”.

                “Giver – Maximizing everyone’s potential.

You are passionate, responsible, caring and compassionate. You can keenly perceive the emotions, needs and motivations of other people. You can find the potential of everyone and would like to help them to maximize their potential. You always promote personal development and team growth. You are very sensitive about praise and criticism. You treat everyone loyally, have high social fitness and collaborate with other people well.  You are a very infectious leader who can stimulate others.”

That sounds pretty good right? I suppose if I had to choose one, this is the one that I would choose but there are both plusses and minuses to this personality type.  I would not be honest with myself or a very good leader if I didn’t see both sides of the coin.

The plusses are pretty obvious.  I care a lot about people, I am passionate about anything that I am invested in, I see the best in people, I love to mentor and I will stand by someone important to me for life. I notice the little things.

The negatives are a little more difficult to admit. Sometimes I care too much, my loyalty has led to being taken advantage of, I can be particularly emotional, my feelings are hurt easily and I have a hard time saying ‘no’ when sometimes I probably should.

The important thing is that I recognize both the good and the bad in my personality type which helps me better navigate where I may best fit as a leader.  I think the most surprising result of all was the ‘infectious leader’ part.  I would not have seen that one coming as I embarked on my leadership journey in CSI yet it turns out that I do OK in rallying the troops.

We all went through this exercise.  The guy who got the results that said he was more analytical and organized found he was pretty happy with his role as Treasurer.  Another who got results indicating more of a ‘big picture’ kind of style is on his way to being President of his Chapter.  We talked about ways for him to get help with organizational skills which was a deficit for his personality type.  The ‘Artist’ in the group would probably be well suited to leading monthly programs where he could express his creativity.

The 2nd day consisted of matching up all of these different personality types with a partner of a different type to see how they communicated.  This was a rousing success and fast friends were made during that session.

All of this interaction, the exercises and getting to know complete strangers rather well over the course of this weekend really got me thinking about what I thought made a good leader, regardless of what all of the online articles say.

This is what I came up with (in no particular order):

  1. A good leader does not operate in a vacuum and does not make any major decisions alone. When you share in the decision making process, everyone has a voice.  I find that even when everyone doesn’t totally agree, there is buy-in on the final decision when everyone participated in the process.
  2. A good leader will facilitate compromise. There is no organization out there that will have consensus on everything. As a leader, you should be guiding the group to meet in the middle.
  3. A good leader listens, hears (that’s the important part) and considers all involved before suggesting a direction.
  4. A good leader absolutely understands the importance of gratitude. I don’t know anybody who does not want to know they are appreciated. The smallest gestures can make a world of difference.  ‘Thank You’ and ‘I value you’ should be a regular part of your vocabulary.
  5. A good leader knows their people and knows them well. You can’t possibly lead or guide your group if you do not know the strengths, weaknesses and personal tidbits of the people you lead. It is your job to help find the best fit for each individual. You can’t do this if you do not know them. You can’t care and be supportive if you don’t know what is going on in their lives.
  6. A good leader has heart. This is my personal #1 (must be the ‘emotional’ in me). You absolutely must have a passion for your people and your mission. That passion is infectious. It’s like a lovely disease that you want to spread. You share it and they catch it.
  7. A good leader is always the voice of reason and the calm in a storm. The hard truth in life is that there is going to be conflict. Your job is to not take sides no matter your personal opinion.  Your job is to bring people together and not be afraid to have the hard conversations.
  8. A good leader will never ask someone to do something they would not be willing to do themselves. A good leader will pitch in anywhere they are needed. There is no place for ego in leadership.
  9. A good leader is a mentor and will share their knowledge and experience with those coming up the ranks. There should be nothing territorial about leadership.
  10. A good leader truly cares.

I am excited about the success of our leadership training weekend and the great people who will be stepping into these roles.  I could wax eternal on all my personal opinions about leadership but the bottom line is that leadership is not about sitting at the top issuing edicts to get things done.

Leadership is about standing side-by-side, sharing your passion, collaborating and working toward a common goal. While I may be the ‘President’ of my chapter and proverbial leader, I am the smallest fish in the pond.  The true power lies in the collaborative effort of a group of amazing people who have come together to create something exciting, vibrant and worthwhile.

They inspire and lead me!

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