Extraverted or introverted; serious or humorous; approachable or distant; leaders come in many different styles. Unfortunately, unlike purchasing a car, you can’t pick what style best suits you, nor can you trade it in for a different model, and there is definitely not a lemon law. Reality dictates, that we adapt to leaders, rather than they to us. So, how about we check out of reality for a bit and pretend we can design our ideal leader? What traits, skills and style would best fit your needs? Let’s have a little fun. I will go first and then you can use the comment section below to add your thoughts. Hopefully, we start a unique dialogue with a large range of responses.
I will use interchangeable pronouns in my description, since gender has no bearing on my view of what constitutes an ideal leader. I will list out below the key building blocks of that leader.
My ideal leader sees the future state and has a clear definition of what success looks like. He can paint that picture clearly for everyone in the organization and is absolute in his conviction in our ability to achieve that vision.
I want a creative out of the box thinker who welcomes new ideas, challenges current thinking, and believes in the benefit of the collective intelligence. She never expects her staff to present just a problem, but rather to bring forth a challenge paired with a recommended solution.
There is a reason for everything. The ideal leader provides strong strategic guardrails that help to maintain focus, and also helps us see that our individual contributions make a difference. He is the champion of our purpose, ensuring as an organization that we are taking action steps and measuring their impact everyday. We all understand how we add value.
This may be an overused term, but it does capture my point. My ideal leader is vulnerable, empathetic, friendly, funny, flawed, scarred and real. She doesn’t hide from any of the above and doesn’t ask others to either.
My ideal leader believes that the power is not in the numbers but in the people. He recognizes that people are the engine of any organization and that a fundamental duty of his is to make them feel heard, cared for, valued and respected. He never refers to people as working “for” him, rather people work “with” him.
She doesn’t have to control every outcome. She doesn’t manage from 5 feet; she manages from 30,000. She recognizes that in order for someone to succeed, you must give them the room to fail. Further, she understands that failure is life’s great teacher and believes firmly that if her people don’t have a few failures, they are not taking the needed risks to move the organization forward.
My ideal leader is fully present when we meet. I am not competing for his attention with emails, phone calls or spreadsheets. He meets me in this moment and I am left to feel that I was the recipient of his complete attention. He believes that as Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Zen priest said, “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence”.
Although I included this in my description of authentic, to me it is worthy of its own call out. Humor is a great unifier when administered in a way that brings people together. Work at times can frankly stink, and being able to laugh together at a difficult situation can bolster the resolve to change it. My ideal leader can laugh at the absurdity of work life, and she encourages others to do the same.
This is just simply being aware. My ideal leader checks in with himself. He knows where his head is when he is about to enter a situation. Similarly, he attempts to bring to bear that awareness on the others with whom he is about to interact. He slows things down and by doing so is far less likely to overreact, underreact or just miss out on a need to act.
Together what I just described is what I would term an Integrative Leader. This is someone who blends the logical and linear with the mind and spirit. It is a combination of a leader with a strong understanding of their purpose, vision and values, applied in a way that makes people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected. I am passionate about this form of leadership and if you are interested in learning more about this approach, please reach out.
Okay, now it is your turn. How would you describe your ideal leader? What are your feelings about what I outlined above? Let’s have a discussion.
Thanks for reading.
Elliot Begoun is a Business Growth Consultant and the Principle of The Intertwine Group. His purpose is to help businesses and business leaders grow. He works to solve real issues, establish strategic guardrails, develop integrative leaders and foster employee enlightenment.
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