Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.
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But leadership is more than influence. It certainly includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. When I speak on this topic, I call these “the five marks of authentic leadership”:
I awoke this morning to the dragon’s hot breath on my face. I was disoriented, not quite knowing where I was. I struggled to open one eye. Then another.
And there he was. A dragon. A very big dragon. With three heads. Sitting in my bedroom, like so many mornings before, he was waiting. His heads swerved back and forth, dancing in the dim light. Each head alternately belching fire and hissing smoke.
A while back, I met with a friend who is a blogger. She has been blogging for a few years, but her blog is in desperate need of a facelift. It has grown a little “long in the tooth,” as they say. I have been meaning to speak to her about his, but she brought it up herself.
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“I am redesigning my blog,” she mentioned. She then showed me a prototype. I was flabbergasted. It looked … great! It was a hundred times better than what she currently has.
Several weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. He had just turned eighty years old. His mind was as sharp as ever—witty, inquisitive, and focused. He was also a great listener. When he did speak, wisdom dripped from his lips like honey.
In a point of genuine humility but uncertainty he asked me, “Michael, do you think I have anything left to contribute? Are my best days over?” Tears welled up in his eyes.
Vision is the lifeblood of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward. It provides meaning to the day-to-day challenges and setbacks that make up the rumble and tumble of real life.
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In a down economy—particularly one that has lasted so long—things get very tactical. Most are just trying to survive. What worked yesterday does not necessarily work today. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Decisions become pragmatic.
In this podcast episode, I talk the essence of authentic leadership. What is it? Is it simply influence or is it something more.
I have always been fascinated by this topic. Perhaps because I enjoy creating models that try to explain something people want to know about.
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A few years ago, I had breakfast with an old college roommate. We hadn’t seen each other in twenty-two years. To my surprise—and delight—he looked almost exactly as he did the last time I saw him. The only difference was that his blond hair was mostly gray.
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We spent an hour or so eating and reminiscing. We talked. We laughed. And we listened.
Trust is to an organization what oil is to a car engine. It keeps the moving parts from seizing up and stopping forward motion.
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But trust is not something you can take for granted. It takes months—sometimes years—to build. Unfortunately, you can lose it overnight.
What do penguins have to do with leadership and changing your toxic team culture? More than you realize.
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The power of a few can influence the behavior of many. Leadership, as John Maxwell suggests, is really nothing more than influence.
Everyone wants to be a leader. However, few are prepared to accept the accountability that goes with it. But you can’t have one without the other. They are two sides of the same coin.
President Harry Truman, “The Buck Stops Here”
But what does accountability look like?
Have you ever heard—or asked—questions like these at work? “Who dropped the ball?” “Why can’t that department do its job right?” “When will we find good people?”
These questions lead us into the dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination—ones that leaders work hard to avoid while on the job.
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But what if the person asking these questions was also a parent and later returned to their family, asking: “Who made the mess in here?” “Why won’t he ever listen to me?” “When will my spouse help out more?”