A leader can be inspiring. Indeed, a leader should be inspiring. After all, as President Franklin Roosevelt pointed out, “It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead — and find no one there.”
A leader should also be out front, not hiding away in an office or behind a computer. Of course, such exposure can be risky. As Claire A. Murray, states, “The problem with being a leader is that you’re never sure if you’re being followed or chased.”
Last week, I gave you the first two characteristics of effective leaders. Let’s look at two more characteristics today.
And if you really want to get better at leading people or influencing people … on and off the job, check out my program on “4C Leadership: Communication, Cooperation, Commitment, and Change.”
1. A leader demonstrates an unshakeable positive attitude.
In other words, they exude energy. They display enthusiasm. They project cheerfulness. And it is nothing short of contagious.
I’m sure you’ve come across some leaders like that. No matter what is going on, you’ve noticed that leader’s department is filled with people who are pumped up, excited, and connected. You may have even wished you were a part of that department … because it’s only natural to be drawn to such high levels of energy.
Of course, some of you are asking how to get an unshakeable positive attitude if you don’t already have one. Good question.
First, decide to have a positive attitude. As the father of positive thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale says,
“Be determined to like your work. Then it will become a pleasure, not drudgery. Change yourself, and your work will seem different.”
Second, in the process of pumping up your attitude, you may have to hide your fears temporarily. As 6th-Century Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu pointed out, “Leadership has been defined as the ability to hide your panic from others.” As your positive attitude grows stronger and stronger, you will eventually eliminate a great deal of your panic.
Third, you’ve got to have faith … in your country, your company, your department, your team, your church, your family, your future … or whatever else you are trying to lead. No one follows a negative leader for very long.
A leader must demonstrate an unshakeable positive attitude when things are going well and not so well. In fact, when things aren’t going so well…
2. A leader accepts responsibility.
In the book, “A Bug’s Life,” it gives the “first rule of leadership: everything is your fault.”
Well, that’s not exactly correct. But an effective leader accepts responsibility for the good and the bad.
Unfortunately, it is much more common to see ego-driven leaders take all the credit when one of their decisions works out well. But when one of their decisions proves to be wrong, they cannot be found, have nothing to say, or blame someone else for their failures.
So it’s no wonder the world is in the midst of one economic crisis after another as well as a confidence crisis. If public leaders would take responsibility for their failed programs, if corporate leaders would take responsibility for their misguided decisions, public cynicism and employee mistrust would drop instantly and dramatically.
The public would applaud a President who admits, “Even though we hoped and planned for transformation, I have to say our trillion-dollar program did not work.” And employees would stick with a CEO who was honest enough and brave enough to say, “My re-organization plan did not work out as I had hoped.”
To be a leader who accepts responsibility, you’ve got to have a certain degree of maturity and humility. You’ve got to be able to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. But we’re going to do better next time.” And when you’re proven right, you avoid saying, “I told you so.”
(In my new program, “4C Leadership: Communication, Cooperation, Commitment, and Change,” you will learn how to bring out the best in yourself and others. We go beyond the fluff to real skills that bring real results.)
One of the best leaders of the 20th century was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He made it clear that “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”
And one of the best leaders I ever worked for was Iain Clark at AEGON in Edinburgh, Scotland. His motto was simply, “Leaders accept responsibility for the decisions they make and take full responsibility for any resulting failures.”
No matter what your title or position is in life or at work, you’re a leader of some kind. Apply these two principles (as well as last week’s two principles) to yourself and your work and you will become a more effective leader.