Are You a Real Leader or Just an Imitation?

Published: Jul 01, 2010

Are You a Real Leader or Just an Imitation?

Are You a Real Leader or Just an Imitation? By Dr. Rick Johnson

Position and title may give you power but power in itself does not make you a "Real Leader." To become a Real Leader, there are specific skill sets that you must understand and master. This does not come naturally. It takes dedication, passion and commitment to the process. That commitment, dedication and passion includes a tireless effort to improve on specific skills and the development of a personal leadership methodology. This is often referred to as your personal leadership model.

Leadership Responsibility

The key to being a Real Leader is the ability to influence the influencers. You have to touch people in such a way that they can reach out and touch other people. Leadership isn’t something you learn from a book or a college course. It is developed over time. Inspiring greatness in others is a phrase often used to define leadership responsibility. This isn’t the easiest challenge you will ever face. Real leaders take the time necessary to learn from their own failures; to comprehend consequences and develop scar tissue. Scar tissue is evidence of experience.

I once heard Steve Kaufman of Arrow Electronics say; “Good Judgement is based on experience and experience is based on bad judgement.”

Think about that, experience is based on bad judgement. What that really means is that real leaders learn from their mistakes and they are not afraid of making mistakes.

Real Leadership is a Process

Effective leaders go through a never ending development process that includes education, self study, training, experience and coaching and mentoring from one or several individuals that have a very positive influence on their personal development. Real Leaders have the ability to influence, inspire and motivate others to accomplish specific objectives. It includes creating a culture that helps direct the organization in such a way that it makes it cohesive and coherent keeping short term tactical goals and objectives in alignment with long term strategic initiatives. The success of leadership in this process is directly influenced by the individual leaders’ beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills.

A leader must demonstrate the need for maximizing performance to the team. This is communicated more by action than words. Tolerance for the lack of excellence or subpar performance sends a distinct message; the wrong message. A cohesive management team is probably the most critical element required to deal with economic crisis and market turbulence.

Basic Tools are Required

Potential leaders are recognized as already having the basic tools. These tools include intelligence, integrity, character and a moral value system for doing the right thing. The rest of the formula can be developed. That formula includes the ability to become a strategic thinker. Creating a vision that deals with the future as well as the present considering both internal and external challenges. One of the most critical skills that need to be developed is the ability to recognize talent in others. This skill set also requires the intuitive mindset to recognize poor performance and the ability to weed out those that can not meet the challenges necessary to maximize success.

The Imitation Leader

The easiest way to suppress discretionary energy, the energy given willingly – no matter what it takes, is a style often used by “Imitation Leaders” that scrutinizes every decision an employee makes. It can kill the employee’s spirit. It destroys trust. Leadership imitation is often just a symptom of ineffective planning, too much compassion and the inability to judge performance and develop bench strength. The “Imitation Leader” usually has a shoot from the hip mentality that encourages micro management and does not allow employees to develop their skills and maximize their potential. One of the many warning signs is a high turnover rate. The reason is simple; good employees just won’t tolerate micro management and they will leave to find employment that will challenge them and help them grow. E-mail for ten tips to avoid micro management.

Let’s look at some Detrimental Habits of “Imitation Leaders”.

1. They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment and often become complacent.
2. They have a tendency to put personal needs ahead of business needs.
3. They think they have all the answers.
4. They don’t listen well and they lack faith in the ability of their employees.
5. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn't 100% behind them and take credit for the success of their subordinates without giving credit.
6. Their EGOs drive their decision making often becoming more concerned with image than reality.
7. They underestimate obstacles and often play the blame game.
8. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past and are not open to new ideas.
9. They claim they empower but often just delegate with excessive control and micro management.
10. They believe they are untouchable due to their tenure or relationship with the CEO, Owners or Board of Directors.

Effective leaders are excellent listeners that have tremendous questioning skills. The power of influence is often in the question and not in the answers. Effective leaders understand this concept. A common trait found in every successful leader I have ever been associated with is insatiable curiosity. Curiosity about their markets, their business, their industry, their employees and what it takes to grow, prosper and create competitive advantage.

Simply put, “Real Leaders” don’t micro manage and they don’t display any of the ten detrimental habits of the Imitation Leaders. In fact, they cringe at the thought of any of these habits. Why? Because they recognize that one of their primary responsibilities is the development of future leaders for the organization.

Compare your leadership model to the list of detrimental habits. If you find that you display one or two of these traits, don’t panic -- just work on improving those specific areas. Seek out some executive coaching. Those who display four or more of these habits aren’t even reading this article because they believe they have all the answers and don’t need it. – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail Don’t forget to check out the Lead Wolf Series that can help you put more profit into your business.

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