Sunday, February 12, 2012

Leadership Qualities

I was listening to the first of Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership podcasts (h/t to Anna Runyan at Classy Career Girl for introducing me to this resource). There's a lot interesting stuff packed into the first podcast but one thing is of particular interest to me. They have an audio clip of Ramsey doing the introductory bit of his leadership training where he asks everyone to first think of a great leader they know (either personally or maybe a famous one they revere). The sort of ideal leader. I'll admit, my brain couldn't work fast enough to think of anyone at this point. And I had to admit to myself that of the three or four people up in my chain of command none of them would make the list of the one leader whom I have great respect for. Neither could the four or five previous bosses I have had. I'll get back to that in a minute.

So he says then to write down in one word character qualities what you would attribute to this great leader. Then he gets some suggestions from the audience. The first one (inspirational) was also the first one that came to my mind. And maybe if I had to pick my favorite that would be it. Ramsey goes on to elaborate on this quality a bit, that being an inspirational leader is both about inspiring and about enabling your team (he doesn't like the word employees) to be successful. But one other word he talks about quite a bit made me stop and think. Humble.

I think in Ramsey's mind or at least what he is trying and project is that a great leader is humble. Perhaps that there is some sort of correlation between great leadership and humility.
Again I had to think back to the folks who supervise me and to people I have worked for in the past. Seems to me the higher I get from my boss to the top guy the less humble folks really are. My direct boss is probably the most humble. And yet I would also characterize him as the least inspiring. Higher up the food chain is the person who I think best exemplifies being inspirational and enabling those below him to succeed. Yet he would be one of the least humble people I know. Does humility really make one a great leader?

I don't mean to necessarily disagree with Ramsey. I suspect he knows a fair bit more about being a leader and about communication and teaching than I do. But humility either does not directly correlate with good leadership, or possibly there is something in the corporate world that does not reward leaders who are humble. The Bing dictionary gives "arrogance" as an antonym to humility. I could see some of the folks above me arguing that it is not so much arrogance that is required, but confidence. However, what is the thin line between confidence and arrogance? Can one really be recognized and promoted without a certain level of arrogance?

And to that end, what does it say about me that I simply can not respect any of these individuals as being great leaders. I respect them as individuals certainly. Many of them have technical skills that far outweigh mine. All of them seem to be much better at being politically savvy than I am. They know when to speak up and when to stay silent and these are things I am still figuring out. But I can't really think of any of them as being great leaders. The one who comes closest is also the one who I would describe as the most arrogant. But really, if I can not respect any of them as leaders doesn't that they say something about me? That certainly must mean that I, too, have an overabundance of hubris and a lack of humility. I'm not sure I like this realization or that I know how to deal with it. But it gives me something to think about and work on at least. I think no matter how arrogant anyone is it is universal to want to improve and this is just one of many things I should stay conscious of.

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