Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Professional experience has shown that most people in leadership positions feel they have the ability to lead. Whether a Corporate CEO, Police Chief or a Military Commander, the expectation remains the same, leaders are expected to lead. In our society, we are taught to believe that we should look to our leaders for guidance, vision, and direction.
Regardless of the individual, people will blindly follow the person in charge, conform to the rules, and buy into that leader’s vision. Now, I will caveat the prior statement that not everyone conforms and can exercise their rights to leave the organization. Still, for those who stay, they will demand the leader to step up and lead from the front of the organization. According to Inc. Magazine, “The solution has always been quite simple, it should be every organization’s top priority to identify and place true leaders – the kind whereby others will believe in and willingly follow into influential roles where their character and moral authority are displayed in full view.” Obviously, not as simple as the author of the article might have expected. History has proven that we do not always get the best leaders however, a leader’s inability to lead becomes more apparent the longer that person is in the leadership position. Sometimes the leader’s failure to lead is so blatantly obvious; it leaves you to ask yourself, how did everyone not see the incompetencies while this person was being vetted for the job. A question that every leader or aspiring to be a leader must ask themselves, “Do I have the ability to lead?” I want to provide you with four leadership skills that every leader should have before answering this question.
First, we need to define the word ABLE. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ABLE means having sufficient power, skill, or resources to do something. For this discussion, ABLE is an acronym that identifies the four leadership skills (Accountable, Be Decisive, Lead by Example, Enthusiastic) that leaders must possess to become an effective leader.
Accountable – The accountable leader is one that is responsible for the outcomes of the organization. Whether positive or negative, the buck stops with an accountable leader! Some leaders truly shine when things are going well. The company is making better than expected profits, the business is thriving, new products are rolling out the door, the employees seem happy, and the media is not sticking a microphone in your face wanting your comments on a negative story! That is how we gauge life’s successes in police work – Life is good? Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong!? It is the leader’s responsibility to instill commitment and ownership within their employees in any organization while guiding and influencing the desired results. Employees depend on a strong leader, and they also are more likely to follow the leaders they like. Today, more than ever, employees are holding leaders more accountable in the workplace, for example, the “MeToo” movement. The workforce dynamic is changing as more millennials, and now the entrance of generation Z, leaders have to change how they engage their employees. They have to be prepared to answer the “Why,” and if the “Why” is not responded to, leaders may lose great candidates. “Accountability Breeds Responsibility,” according to Steven Covey; therefore, before taking on a leadership role, you should assess your ability to be accountable.
Be Decisive – Great leaders are not afraid to make decisions and be accountable for their choices. Employees expect their leaders to be decisive, and those that are not are ineffective. In the words of General Douglas MacArthur, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” For some leaders making hard decisions is the most challenging part of leadership. For those leaders who are indecisive, employees see their leaders as weak and ineffective. Decisions in life are not always easy, but they are still necessary. Before taking on a leadership role, ask yourself if I am willing to tackle the tough decisions that must be made and ready to defend those decisions?
Lead by Example – John Wooden said it best when he said, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” Leaders need to lead by example. It is that simple if you want your employees to act a certain way, dress a certain way, then you need to be the model of those behaviors. Also, communicate your expectations to your employees, so they clearly understand what you expect them to do. What you do not want to happen is you have an ideal model of what you want in your mind, and your employees have a different model, and the two models are not the same. So, what you should do is act out your expectations for your employees in your everyday interactions. For instance, if you require employees to be on time for work, you need to be on time. If you want employees to be kind to customers or engage with the community, they need to see you interacting and engaging. Employees watch what we do, not listen to what we say, therefore consider if you are willing to Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk before taking on a leadership role.
Enthusiastic – “Nothing Great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” according to the great Ralph Waldo Emerson. Leaders need to have a positive outlook and be the biggest cheerleader for your employee’s achievements. Employees can spot fake and insincere enthusiasm, so if you do not feel it, then do not do it because it will tarnish the employee’s trust in the leader’s integrity. Leaders must also believe in themselves and the vision that they have for their company. Leaders without enthusiasm will find it extremely difficult to motivate your team. Ford Motor Company Founder Henry Ford put it this way, “Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” Enthusiastic leaders are passionate about their work, and they exuded intense enjoyment, energy, and dedication, which inspires others. It is no secret that enthusiasm is contagious and can make the difference in a productive workforce or a challenged workforce. Successful leaders choose to share their vision of success, communicate optimism to the employees, and allow them to feed off your energy. Unsuccessful leaders are often pessimistic, insecure, and have negative attitudes that do not encourage them to want to rise to the challenge. As a leader, you must choose; you either want to be an enthusiastic influencer for your organization or decide to lead a mediocre organization. A decision that you will need to make before taking on a leadership role.
Could you pass the ABLE test of Leadership? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please sign up to receive the monthly newsletter.