Let’s face it. Some of us are sick of hearing about the “L” word. But when we stop long enough to ponder it, we all know how important leadership is in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities. Without it, we flounder.
I recently enjoyed a lunch with two of Denver’s finest men, Thom Scheffel and Lloyd Lewan. We discussed food, life, and leadership. During the fellowship, Lloyd gave me a copy of one of his books To Be A LEADER – leadership beyond management. I finished it in just a few days and though I have read many good books on leadership, this one will be among my favorites.
One section of his book makes a clear distinction between leadership and management by emphasizing three responsibilities of leadership. While Lloyd lifts up the importance of management, he also pulls no punches about clearly defining the high call to lead. In my own words:
Vision. The first responsibility of leadership is to possess a vision that he or she truly believes. Without belief, there is no dedication, substance, or creativity. Leadership vision is not pie-in-the-sky dreaming, it is practical and realistic. Followers have to see that it is needed and that it makes sense. They must be able to see how what they are doing fits into the bigger picture.
Focus. The second responsibility of leadership is helping followers stay focused on what is important. Life happens. People make mistakes. Things occur that are out of our control. There are many distractions. Sometimes we “wake up” lost and can’t figure out what went wrong.
Leadership must own focus. It does not allow the organization to say, “yes” when “no” may be the right and sometimes unpopular answer. Focus is attaching the “what,” “how”, and “why” to every activity. Without focus, the vision is forgotten and the significance of one’s own work is lost.
Influence. No matter how clear, practical, and meaningful the vision, no matter how focused the workers might be, they are people. Humans were created for relationship. Healthy relationships have a foundation of trust. Followers want to “experience” the alignment of the leader with the vision and mission of the organization.
Influence is about leadership integrity. A leader holds in tension what is best for the organization and the needs of its people. As Lloyd would say, “The leader eats last!” The leader eats last because leadership is about service.
Leadership is to provide vision, focus, and influence. I wonder how we might build better organizations if we heeded this call? Obviously, leadership is difficult and it requires dedication to these principles. Most sincere folks who sense a call to be good leaders know that we must never stop learning or listening.