Historically we’ve pictured successful leaders as General Patton types, with their chrome plated helmets, their riding crop slapping their tall shiny black boots while they told us what do.
They were our leaders because told us they were and we obeyed.
Theirs was the “don’t do what I do, do what I say do” model many of us can remember all too clearly. Command and control were usually what we meant when we thought of our leaders.
Leaders today have qualities we would not necessarily associate with leadership strategies even though we have always been drawn to follow those who had them. One of these qualities is empathy, a genuine appreciation and understanding of the values of others.
Today’s leaders appreciate the cultures, beliefs, and traditions of those who follow them, whether they are internal members of their organization or customers and prospects with whom they wish to have productive relationships.
Those who excel at leadership strategies are sensitive to the needs of their followers, this is empathy – not to be confused with sympathy.
Sympathy often results in vacillation, being wishy-washy from side to side – while a true leader, with the good of the organization in mind, pursues hard diplomacy and makes the tough decisions.
Empathy allows for decisiveness and leaders are called upon to be decisive.
Leaders know when to act and just as importantly know when not to act, objectively and empathetically taking into account all the facts bearing on the situation.
Decisiveness means a leader will not put off making the hard decisions. Those who will not make decisions are both confusing and discouraging to their subordinates, their peers, and their supervisors.
An unwillingness to make decisions only serves our competitors, both inside of and outside of the organization.
Leaders also develop the quality of anticipation. They learn, by observing the reactions and responses of others, to shape their instincts based on experience.
Excellent leaders learn to anticipate thoughts, actions, and consequences in ways that make them seem clairvoyant. They seem to “just know” the right way to approach a situation, leading to the glow we followers are attracted to.
It is true that anticipation brings with it a level of risk, but that risk is willingly accepted by the true leader, while those just pretending to be leaders do nothing and turn to the comfort and personal security of playing it safe.
With empathy, compassion, decisiveness, and anticipation comes timing.
It really is always about the timing. Timing is essential to all acts of successful leadership strategies. There is no magic formula for developing a sense of timing which is why becoming a leader takes time not school books.
Leaders learn timing, and many of the qualities of leadership strategies through trial and error, failure and by applying the lessons learned as a result of each failure they hone their leadership skills.
Leaders know that failure is not fatal and failure is not a personal indictment of their character, in fact it is just the opposite. If you are afraid to fail you will not act and if you will not act you will not be called a leader.
Leadership strategies takes an infinite variety of forms, one for every leader. Each of us is different and to be an effective leader we need to know who we are, are comfortable being ourselves, understand our motives, and our character – flaws and all.
These elements of leadership strategies are critical when you, the emerging leader, are seeking approval and cooperation for even the most mundane of your recommendations and actions.