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Spring, by Millet, 1873

Recently I have been thinking a lot about leadership.  In my lifetime I have worked under people, managed people, been a pupil in a classroom setting, been the teacher in the classroom setting, and many variations within.  In all of these settings dynamics of energy are present that make you excited to be there, or dread being there.  As I thought more about it, I realized that this good or bad energy was created not by the ease or difficulty of the workload or the physical environment, but by the quality of the leaders.  What strikes me is that with good leadership, you don’t even notice you are being led–because you are so excited to be on this person’s team, and their good energy is contagious.  So what are some of the traits of someone who leads people with excitement, creates loyalty, and brings out the best in people?

  1.  They are passionate about what they do.  This is a basic first step.  If someone is passionate about what they do, it raises the excitement level of everyone around them.  People are pulled upwards and inspired by the person’s passion–or love–for an idea or project. Even if there’s no technical position of leadership, these kinds of people will be natural leaders because people will gravitate towards their passion.  Everyone wants to feel alive, and if someone it totally awake and alive in what they do, they’ll create a trail of people excited by their energy and wanting it, too.
  2. They are trustworthy.  When they say they will do something, they follow through, no excuses.  This creates a trust, a feeling of stability, and avoids resentment for people who depend on your leadership.
  3. They treat people with respect.  From the youngest student, to the janitor, to the president of a company, the best leaders treat everyone with the same level of respect.  This creates the feeling like you are SEEN when they are in their presence, and this powerful experience of being seen and respected can by the biggest catalyst of growth for people who may have never had it to that level before.
  4. They take responsibility.  They shoulder what is theirs to carry, and hold others accountable in a kind way for carrying their own responsibilities.
  5. They are open to feedback.  You feel like you could go to them with concerns, questions and ideas and they would be receptive, not shut you down.
  6. They retain their humility.  They understand that they are human like everyone else, and the world does not revolve around them simply because they are in a position of influence.  They retain their empathy for people and create an environment of caring.

So how do you measure up?  How do I?  Like most imperfect people, I can think of times where I’m proud of how I led, and other times that  I wish I could relive in order to fix.  Writing this list makes me want to be more conscientious of my actions…but not so conscientious that it paralyzes.  I still believe that THE most important quality of leadership is the passion.  As long as you have that, everything else is the icing on the cake.

As is quoted in Robert Rimm and Clive Gillison’s  book Better to Speak of It, “What we’re really all involved with doing is trying to wrestle dreams into reality.”

A beautiful description of an ideal leader, exciting the people around him with his own vision until it becomes their own.