Great Leadership

Great Leaders Know They MUST Do Four Things to Cultivate Respect within the Organization

In nearly 30 years of working, I can truthfully state that I have worked for some good leaders, some not so good leaders and, thankfully, some really GREAT leaders.  In reflecting on my work experience, other than pondering that I have been working for 30 years and am feeling a little bit older than when I began drafting this article, I did conclude that no matter the organization they all have leaders; some are good, some are bad and some are great. My conclusion is not earth shattering. This is not new information; however, it did get me thinking more about my leadership approach and how my actions directly and indirectly contribute to the overall success of the organization. Am I a GREAT leader? Are you a GREAT leader? Here is what I know: I know that I do NOT want to be a bad leader and I know you don’t either. I also know that GOOD is okay, but we are overachievers, right? I would not be writing this article and you would not be reading it if leadership wasn’t important to you. Therefore, I conclude that we want to be GREAT leaders. To be a cut above the rest, John C. Maxwell, one of my favorite leadership experts states, “GREAT leaders need to do four things well.”

  • Speak with clarity
  • Be warm and approachable
  • Influence the behavior of others
  • Be authentic

I definitely agree with Maxwell, but truth be told, even if you are an okay leader there will be people that follow you, at least to some extent. In fact, I will even say there are some legitimate reasons people will follow:

  • It is what they are supposed to do
  • It is expected of them
  • They need a job

However, as legitimate as those reasons may be, Dr. John Townsend, author of the book, Becoming the Leader Others Want to Follow, states that you will never see those individuals perform at the levels that bring great results until they go beyond the “supposed to” to “want to” attitude. He further states that when people experience a leader they are drawn to they will work better, be more mission-focused and tackle work in a more dedicated fashion. GREAT leaders know that to get people to have a “want to” attitude and follow them they must speak with clarity, be approachable, be influential and be authentic. Alright, so how do we get there? Below I share my personal perspective to elaborate on Maxwell’s four leadership “must haves” to get you thinking.

Maxwell states, “clarity is about making something clear so people experience structure to work that makes sense. Leaders clarify every day.”  Interesting, but if you are like me, you probably thought, how is this different from standard organizational communication? Communication is absolutely important; however, if you the leader are communicating information that is not well understood or to only a select group of individuals you are not going to be effective. In fact, you run the risk of communicating information that no one understands which then becomes meaningless. GREAT leaders communicate clearly, simply and regularly. They are transparent in their message and have no hidden agendas. GREAT leaders follow up to make certain their message is understood. If a leader makes his message clear, people can then answer three clarity focused questions to help them stay focused:

  • What is my role?
  • What is not my role?
  • How does my role impact the mission of the organization?

This is the people skill part of leadership. If people feel valued, that they belong, and that you are interested in them, they will put their whole selves into the job. Sadly, they will never get to that point if they do not feel the warmth of the leader. If the leader is unapproachable or distant, they will be too. They will not feel compelled to give their all if they do not feel it is worth it. As a result, you will be stuck with “supposed to” people not “want to” people that you need to produce top notch, high quality work. To be approachable you must get out and walk the halls. You must meet your people where they are most comfortable, their workspace. Taking just a few moments a day to get to know your people will pay great dividends in the long run, especially when you have built relationships with them. In essence, you are validating through your actions that they are in the right place; they belong in the organization and are a crucial part of the mission.

Maxwell says, influencing behavior, performance, events and outcomes is possible. I agree! After all, as leaders, we are all designed to be a part of a mission larger than ourselves, aren’t we? With that line of thinking, Maxwell says influence comes in many ways: creating buy-in, inspiring, messaging and challenging. Again, I agree. Bottom line: if people perceive you are making changes and improvements that are meant for the greater good, they will soon begin to trust you more and will be inspired to make a difference as well. On the flip side, if you are all about self-promotion or have a “what’s in it for me” attitude you will never influence or inspire anyone to truly follow you. You will forever be stuck with “supposed to” people not “want to” people. Sure, you may achieve some wins but you will never achieve GREAT success for the organization.

GREAT leaders are not perfect. They are real people just like you and me. They admit their flaws and their mistakes. They do not pass blame. In doing so, they will gain loyalty and cultivate a culture of openness with all individuals in the organization. I have had some leaders tell me that sharing flaws makes them look weak and they do not want to show any weaknesses to their subordinates. I say, sharing done right with a humble heart makes you human and approachable. I will always follow someone who is open and honest before I follow someone who is mysterious and closed off. How about you? I say to be a GREAT leader you need to keep it real! Below are some additional questions to keep the leadership conversation active. Please feel free to respond in the comment box at the bottom of this post.

  • What are you doing now to be a great leader within your organization?
  • Do you speak with clarity, are you approachable, are you influencing others, and are you authentic?
  • What are you doing to inspire those individuals that follow you?
  • What else would you add to the list of items leaders must have to be great?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the topic.


Leadership resource:

John C. Maxwell –

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