Much has been written on the topic of Leadership and I find it difficult to share anything new on the topic. Nonetheless, Texas Security Bank is committed to Elevating the Champions of Free Enterprise and to a large extent, every entrepreneur’s success is tied to their ability to Lead, so I am obliged to share some of my thoughts about Leadership that I have discovered over the 30 years I have worked with business owners.
Four Key Attributes of Great Leaders:
1) Vision and Passion – In past blogs, I’ve discussed my definition of Vision as written by Andy Stanley’s phenomenal book Visioneering. “Vision is the ability to see what could be fueled by the conviction of what should be.” Read that again. Leaders have vision. They also have a passionate rock-solid conviction on making it happen. Leaders have passion. Passion for what? Passion for just about everything but especially for the vision of what could be and therefore what should be. Passion - not in a contrived way – but in their own authentic individual way. Some are cheerleaders. Some are calm and resolute. Either way, what you and I see emanating from those individuals is passion, and we want to be part of it. Everybody does! I love John Wesley’s quote regarding passion’s role in leadership. Wesley said, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
2) Core Values and Culture - Exceptional results start here. A leader must develop the organization’s mission statement and core values. These are the building blocks of the organization’s culture. In my opinion, this can’t be delegated. Mission statement and core values by committee always turns into an exercise of wordsmithing and compromise. This is not an area for compromise. Instead, it is the time for the leader to lead and say… “this is who we are - anyone with me?”
The leader owns - and must model - the core values. Nothing kills an organizational culture like hypocrisy! The leader is responsible for recruiting a team that “buys in” to the core values and utilizes them to deliberately drive the culture. Core values can’t be just a bunch of framed words on the conference room wall, created at the annual retreat. Core values are used to filter decisions, correct and reward behavior, and establish the company’s identity. Core value discussions must be part of every team member’s performance review. Great leaders seek regular opportunities to speak about and promote the values. They also encourage their leadership team to do the same.
3) Recruit and Develop – Truly great leaders recruit and develop team members. Recruiting is where I often see leaders fall short. Why is that? First, they lack Vision and Passion. Quality performers are looking to trade up. They are seeking purpose for their vocation. When a top performer sees a breath-taking Vision they often find purpose and a path towards self-awareness. They see a challenge that will force them to learn more about themselves.
The second reason leaders are unable to recruit well is the absence of a defined and well-documented hiring process. They don’t develop an Ideal Candidate Profile. Their pool of qualified candidates is too small. When the leader can’t tolerate the added burden of an unfilled position - he or she can become impatient, compromise, and hire candidates that don’t align with the company’s core values. Finally, a leader’s ability to recruit can be hindered by their own insecurity. As leaders, we should endeavor to hire people at our level or above. Maybe not in terms of experience, but at least in terms of potential, intelligence and skill set. I often see “positional” leaders who seek to hire people they can maintain ‘mental jurisdiction’ over. This not a very scalable strategy. Instead, hire a bunch of people that are smarter than you.
Every great leader backs up the recruiting process with an unwavering culture of training and development. Don’t train until we get it right. Let’s train until we can’t get it wrong. Training and development must be a core value driven by the leader and the leadership team. Otherwise, we will not retain or create top talent.
4) Encouragement and Candor - The best leaders see the organizational chart upside down. They can build enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will. Leaders must be willing to serve the team. Serving includes knowing the goals and aspirations of team members, tying those goals with the organizations goals and helping them develop as a team member.
To do this, it is critical for the team member to have an accurate self-awareness. People either underestimate or overestimate their skills, potential and contribution to the organization. Where there is an underestimation, the Leader must play the role of encourager. Where there is an overestimation, the Leader must have the courage to speak truth and candor. If a team member knows - without a doubt - that the Leader has the best interest of both the individual and the organization in mind, the team member gives the Leader a license to speak with candor. Truth and candor are the “secret sauce” of any high performing organization.