There are a lot of people in “leadership” positions that really aren’t worth following. They might talk a good game and say all the right things, but their actions tell a completely different story. How a “leader” leads him or herself will determine how effective they are as a leader. If a “leader” leads hypocritically, their leadership will be ineffective. A “leader” who leads themselves first, holds themselves to high standards and expectations, follows through with what they say, and will have a leadership legacy that will stand the test of time.
In Dave Ramsey’s book, EntreLeadership, he talks about an activity he has his audience do at the beginning of his seminars. He has everyone write down as many one-word characteristics they feel a good leader should have. He goes on to show, on average, the words that are consistently repeated. Take a minute and think for yourself about one-word characteristics you think a good leader should possess. The words that are repeated at Ramsey’s conferences are at the bottom of this blog. How many words match the words you came up with?
One of the most important characteristics any leader should possess is that of integrity. I define integrity as doing the right thing no matter what, or doing the right thing no matter the cost. It seems like no matter where you look or what channel you turn on these days, there is always some “leader” being called out for their hypocrisy. They tell their people to do one thing, but turn around and give special privileges to themselves; ignoring what they told their people to do. This shows a significant lack of integrity. I have always said, lead in a way where morals and ethics are a habit, not a choice. If you have to pause and determine if you will be morally or ethically right, then your leadership qualities are lacking. If you hold your people to a different standard than you hold yourself, your leadership qualities are lacking. If you choose to only do the “right” thing when people are watching, your leadership qualities are lacking.
You must first lead yourself before you can expect to be an effective leader for others. As a leader, you should be holding yourself to a high standard. You should expect nothing but the best from yourself. Leading yourself means never settling for okay, never giving excuses for not giving your best, and most importantly, living in a way that does not put your character in question. Anyone who holds a leadership position will be talked about sooner or later. Your goal should be to have those conversations focus on only the good qualities that you possess. How do you do that? By holding yourself above reproach and living in such a way that integrity, morals, and ethics are a permanent staple of your character.
Your effectiveness as a leader is dependent on how you choose to live your life. This world is filled with “leaders”, but I believe that very few are actual leaders. Many may hold titles and positions of a leader, but their choices, decisions, and actions show a lack of true leadership qualities. Some lead through fear, some lead through manipulation, and some lead through hypocrisy. There are very few leaders in this world that lead with integrity.
Those who lead with integrity are usually leading from the rear of the pack or from within it. They are rarely on stage spouting rhetoric and cheap words. Leaders who lead through integrity lead by action. They do not see themselves as someone of importance, but rather a member of a team. These leaders are servants to their people and never expect to be served. These leaders understand that their weaknesses become the weaknesses of their company/organization. They are in a constant state of reflection and growth; always trying to improve themselves to be the best version of themselves. Real leaders are the ones who will admit mistakes, take ownership of said mistakes, never point fingers, and understand the importance of self improvement. Real leaders lead through integrity.
So, I have a question for you. Would you follow you? If people dug into your life and looked at your words and compared them to your actions, what would they find? Would they have conversations that rip you apart and call you out on your hypocrisy, or would they talk about your upright character? Would the people you lead see you as a team player and say that you hold yourself to the same standard as you hold them? Ultimately, are you someone worth following?
Characteristics that the majority of people believe good leaders should possess: