What qualities and characteristics are present in a great leader? Why are soldiers willing to march to their deaths at the order of one leader but turn against another? The are many types of leadership models. The autocratic leader has been increasingly replaced by leaders who are more attuned to the needs of their team.
The concept of service leadership has been around since the early 1990s. It is based on the view that the role of a leader is to lead by helping or enabling others; in other words, Gandhi rather than Stalin. Effective leadership skills involve more than making good decisions and meeting pre-determined goals. Today’s workers expect to have a personal relationship with their leader, expect that the leader understands their strengths and weaknesses and provides leadership that will help them accomplish their goals and perform at their best.
The following 6 dimensions are adapted from the Service Leadership Wheel (Karl Albrecht, 1990.) A true service leader needs to be effective in all 6 of these areas:
- Vision and values: Good leaders are visionaries. They know what the end goal looks like and can convey that vision to others. Service leaders are well-informed, are decisive, willing to take risks, see and correct problems before they become overwhelming and are good role models.
- Direction: Good leaders see the end goal and know all the steps required to get there. These leaders also clearly convey that direction to their team. They then trust their team and delegate tasks that will help create new, effective leaders.
- Persuasion: Effective leaders are skilled in communicating their vision. They convey the big picture in a way that everyone can understand. Everyone was clear about JFK’s goal of putting an American on the moon. There were many reasons why the government decided to do this, but all Americans needed to hear was the vision that Kennedy conveyed so powerfully in his inaugural address.
- Support: Effective leaders create the vision for their people, and then help them get there by providing the necessary support. They keep in touch with what is happening at all levels, are good problem solvers and creative thinkers and use their time and other’s time wisely. Good leaders only call meetings when the meeting will accomplish a specific task in the most efficient, effective way!
- Appreciation: Everyone needs to be appreciated. A smile, an acknowledgment of a job well-done or demonstrating a strong effort are so simple they are often overlooked. If your team knows you care about them and notice the quality of the work they do they will work hard for you. Celebrate incremental goal successes on the way to fulfilling your vision.
How do these 6 aspects of leadership apply to you? I suggest that you start with your next project. Divide completion of the project into the 6 areas and determine how you will meet each one by exhibiting the characteristics of a service-oriented leader. Ask a fellow employee to evaluate you on how well you meet each dimension. The more that your team feels that their needs are as important as your end goal, the better leader you will be.
For more information on improving your leadership skills as well as your speaking skills, consider joining a Toastmasters club. Toastmasters International offers training in many areas, you proceed at your own pace and have the opportunity to be evaluated as you develop your skills. Although people use the term “natural leader,” in reality, leadership is a skill that can be earned by anyone.