Leadership is not taught, leadership is learned. The challenge of developing leaders is; how do you teach leadership in the classroom? Leadership is learned by knowing and doing. Leadership is on the job training, you learn it while you do it. That makes it a challenge for business as they try to develop tomorrow’s leaders, mistakes will be made. Can the company afford the mistakes, manage the mistakes?
There are some fundamental concepts that can be taught in the classroom to help the future leader develop the underpinnings of being a good leader. I learned the traits of a leadership while attending Officer Candidate School. These traits were explained to us in class, we had to memorize them and as we performed our duties and tasks, and made mistakes, or achieved our objectives, the instructors would ask us to explain which trait we displayed, or should have displayed and how it helped us to make good decisions. Understanding, knowing and employing these traits in our day-t-day lives helped us to become leaders.
These are the traits of leadership:
Bearing– Carry yourself like a leader, from dress and appearance to body language and stance. You can’t wear shorts and flip-flops to the office on casual Friday, you have to maintain a professional appearance and demeanor at all times. If you are having a bad day, you can’t slump your shoulders and appear defeated, or have a blow up and yell at your staff. Maintain your bearing, look and act professional always.
Courage– Facing challenges that you are fearful of and standing your ground. Is their courage on display in the American office today? Do you do the right thing when your boss tells you to cut a corner, tell a lie, cover up a truth. Can you stand up to your boss’ scurrilous behavior when your job is on the line? Do you stand up for your principles or do you go along to get along?
Dependability– Do what you say you will do. Show up on time, every time and do the work, get the job done. Do the work when no one is around to supervise you. Are you the one that can be counted upon to get the job done?
Decisiveness– Can you make decisions? Can you make sound and timely decision? A very important leadership trait is the ability to see that something must be done, analyze the options quickly and make a good decision with the information on hand.
Initiative– Initiative goes hand-in hand with decisiveness. Do you see tasks waiting to be done and do them, or do you wait around to be told what to do? Initiative is taking the responsibility and the lead to get things done.
Integrity– Are you trustworthy and honest? Can you be depended upon to do the right thing, and to treat all fairly. You need integrity to achieve dependability.
Judgment– This is part of decision-making, do you have good judgment, do you make good decisions? Given the available information, situation and timing, do you weigh it all, analyze it and make a good decision? But don’t over analyze the situation and achieve ‘paralysis by analysis’. Remember what General George Patton said, “ A good decision today is better than a perfect decision tomorrow.”
Justice– Are you fair to all that you encounter? Do you treat everyone the way they should be treated, that is, as you would want to be treated? Are you honest and fair in your dealings with all? With justice comes the dependability and integrity that a leader needs.
Knowledge– Having the knowledge, the know how, the education to do your job. And having a wide breadth of knowledge beyond the immediate task. Steve Job told us in his Stanford commencement speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” You have to have knowledge of the dots in the past so you can connect them and make good decisions going forward.
Tact– The ability to be thoughtful, diplomatic and sensitive to those around you and the situations you will find yourself in. You can get the job done without being offensive to those around you, be considerate and polite to all that you encounter. And remember, the toes you step on today climbing the ladder can be attached to the ass that you have to kiss on the way back down.
Unselfishness– Remember others in your actions and decisions, don’t make decisions because they solely benefit you. Be kind and considerate of your coworkers and staff; be selfless in your decision-making and behavior.
All of these traits are interdependent and build on each other to provide a leader with the underpinnings of being a good leader. They are not just words to be memorized and sited; they are a way of life, a code, a behavior set that has to be exercised every day for a leader.