Leadership Defined

an article by Barb McEwen

The buzz almost everywhere these days is about valueless leaders and corporate deception. As Allan Greenspan so aptly puts it, we are living through an era of infectious greed. Whether what has gone on was either illegal or unethical, I'm content to let that be determined by the courts and regulators. But, there is no doubt that CEO's have been looking out for No. 1 at great expense to shareholders and the country. We are dismayed and rightly so. Too often we have witnessed those caught up in this power culture spin out of control. We have seen it politically, in the corporate world and in many other places including the church.

A successful manager is not a person who can do the work better than his people; a successful manager is a person who can get his people to do the work better than he can.
Fred Smith

The one thing we are beginning to recognize is that we have strayed from the proverbial path. At one time corporations and their leaders had a social conscience. They not only were economically viable but they also allocated a portion of their profits to give back to their community. So is what is happening all bad? I don't think so. We have just received a huge wake-up call and the time has come for us to examine what type of people we want to be and the type of people we want to have in leadership positions. It is also a time for leaders to examine their own motives and reassess the type of legacy they wish to leave.

What Does Good Leadership Imply?

Leadership is defined primarily by what we do, not by the role we have been assigned. Good leadership starts "in here" and has values, clarity and a vision of what is really important. People instinctively follow good leaders. In essence who you are comes before what you do. If you are wondering whether you are a good leader, simply remember what you were like the last time you were under pressure or stress. Your actions spoke louder than words.

Good leaders have high expectations both of themselves and others. They develop relationships and believe in people. They understand their ability to influence the performance of others. Effective leaders convey an energy and a passion that encourages others. They are not interested in blaming others for problems but rather look for solutions.

Good leaders set an example. From the volumes of literature on leadership research, we learn that above all, people want to believe in and trust their leaders. Credibility makes a huge difference in both our performance and our commitment to an organization.

Unfortunately what we have been witnessing recently is the actions of a few who have climbed their ladder of success wrong by wrong!

Good leaders don't fake it. As an executive, if you believe the people you lead don't recognize your weaknesses, think again. As their leader, it is up to you to set the tone by managing your own conduct.

At the same time good leaders don't devalue the contributions of others. Synergy is built by the exchange of ideas. There is nothing quite so degrading as being spoken down to. Leaders do not have all the answers and it is imperative that they become good listeners. Think of a person you admire and there is a strong likelihood that he or she is the type of person who will listen to your concerns. Strong companies are built one person at a time.

The old militaristic style of leadership just doesn't cut it any more and hasn't for quite some time. In my experience, when economic downturns or restructuring take place, there is a knee-jerk reaction to revert back to the old autocratic style of management. In today's environment, this can be a dangerous move. What was once acceptable behavior is now being routinely challenged.

Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. But if you take away my factories but leave my people, soon we will have a new and better factory.
Andrew Carnegie

We each express our leadership strengths in our own way and in our own place of choice. It may be in the corporate boardroom, on the shop floor, or within our family. The most important thing we will ever ask ourselves is: "What kind of legacy do we wish to leave?" How will our children describe us to their friends? What does our staff say about us to others? Will our peers miss our input and insight?

We are all required to move beyond manipulative behavior - the behavior we exhibit when we insist on being right! Our job is to mine the gold that is within each individual. The world needs more people who will encourage one another. We can create an environment that respects the person, improves communications, harnesses the power of the individual and the teams, acknowledges achievement and creates enthusiasm. I'm biased, but I believe that women have a significant role to play in the new corporate environment. This crisis has happened for a reason. The inappropriate use of power has created an opportunity. It is time to create a broader vision of what good leaders can contribute to the corporate world and then let's set out to accomplish it!

Barb McEwen, C.E.C.
Personal Executive Coach
20/20 Executive Coaching Inc

Barb uses Enneagram Personality Theory in coaching her clients.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at