Have you ever known someone who thought they were leading, but no one was following them? Pretty sad isn’t it? The reason people are sometimes deluded about their ability to lead is that they have neglected one of the core elements of leadership. It’s sad to watch people struggle in a leadership role because, in reality, leadership is pretty simple.
Simple does not mean “easy”; it means “less complex.” Leadership, good leadership, although not easy, is simple. In its simplest form it is the employment of three core skills:
- Casting vision
- Executing strategy
- Fostering relationships
When someone in a leadership role performs these three skills, he/she is indeed a leader. When someone in a leadership role neglects one or more of these skills, he/she is not a leader. Leadership is simple, but it can be hard to do at the same time.
Leadership is simple, but it can be hard to do at the same time. Don’t believe me? Try this exercise for a moment: consider the most effective leader you’ve ever known. Did that person effectively make you want to strive for something more (cast vision)? Did that person have a knack for getting the right things done (executing strategy)? Did that person make you and the others he/she led feel valued (foster relationships)? I’m willing to bet that you answered “yes” to all three questions.
Now consider someone you’ve known who held a position of leadership, but fell short of being an effective leader. Did that person cast vision? Did that person execute the strategy? Did that person foster relationships? You probably answered “no” to at least one of those questions didn’t you? Why? Because leadership is simple, but it can be hard to do at the same time.
If you take away casting a vision, you have a team of happy people with clear tasks to perform, but no passion. People feel drained. Without casting a vision, the environment is stale. True leaders evoke passion in others.
If you take away fostering relationships, you will have a team of people who know what to do, will know why they should do it, but they will burn out fast because they don’t feel like anyone cares about them. The people will feel used. Without fostering relationships, the boss drives people rather than leading them. True leaders make others feel valued.
If you take away executing strategy, you will have a team of people who have a lot of excitement, they will enjoy one another, but they won’t really know what to do next. THe people will feel bogged down. Without executing strategy, people become frustrated by inaction. True leaders point the way and help people get things done.
Now for the hard part. If you’re in a position of leadership, you need to ask yourself honestly, “Am I exercising all three of these skills? Am I really a leader?” Because if you aren’t using all three skills, it doesn’t matter what position of leadership you may hold; in reality, you aren’t actually leading.