The Bling of Leadership
Fran Harris, Ph.D.
Two friends were traveling through the Rocky Mountains when they heard noises behind them, rustling in the woods. They’d been warned about the bears in those parts and immediately became alarmed by what they were sure was a bear. The two friends took off running and within seconds one of them tripped and fell. The other friend kept running even though it was clear, his friend desperately needed help. The fallen friend yelled out but his friend kept running. Suddenly, he was face to face with a huge, grizzly bear whose breath was beating down on him. “Are you going to kill me?” the fallen friend asked. The bear looked down the road, seeing the other guy way in the distance. He turned back to fallen friend, “Of course not, I just stopped to tell you never to travel with a leader who’d leave you at the first sign of danger.”
There’s a big difference between management and leadership. The friends in the story above could have easily both been great managers of their environment but when it came to leadership, the friend who left the other behind made one thing clear: he was looking out for number one. Not a great leadership move.
Someone once said, “tasks are managed, people are led.” To be a great leader you must also embody the qualities of a great coach. The old school way of leading created a fairly stagnant marketplace. Workers worked, managers managed and no one questioned the status quo. Today, we live in a much more dynamic environment where innovation and ingenuity are not only embraced but also expected.
Given those realities, leadership must also step up to the plate and answer the call of the changing marketplace, lest they be left behind. One of the most remarkable aspects of being a professional athlete was the constant exposure to elite coaching and leadership styles. The lessons I learned through my basketball career have helped me to create what I believe is an extraordinary environment in my own company, Fran Harris Enterprises.
While there are many great leadership qualities, I’ve narrowed the list down to my top five, CALCE. These are the tenets I stress when teach teambuilding in Fortune 100 corporations and sports teams alike.
Great leaders are master Communicators. We’ve been conditioned to think that great leaders talk all the time. That they’re non-stop chatters. Always forcing their opinions and ideas onto the group. Not necessarily so. The best leaders must know when to talk and when to zip it up. In fact, the consummate leader must also be an effective listener. He must not only hear the needs and concerns of his teammates but also possess the ability to filter out what’s needed to take the team to the next level. His communication style must convey confidence and at the same time, enlist the thoughts of those on the team. The best leaders are those who create an atmosphere where diverse voices are not only heard but also valued.
Great leaders embrace Accountability. If you’re not willing to take responsibility for your own mistakes, you’ll never be an effective leader. Accountability inspires confidence among the team. When individuals know that you are strong enough to “own up” to your decisions – good or bad --, they will be more likely to own up to theirs. This level of accountability leads to a finely tuned machine where the team becomes excellent stewards of the company.
Great leaders are friends of Laughter. Humor is the best medicine and is without question an essential ingredient for compelling leadership. You don’t need to be a stand up comic, but you do need to have a healthy sense of humor and the ability to see the lighter side of things. If the leader can enjoy a nice belly laugh, you can bet morale will benefit.
Great leaders are ambassadors of Compassion. The best leaders are those who have not forgotten what it’s like to be on the front line. Many leaders believe that by empathizing or having compassion that they lose the respect of their team. Not so! Contrary to popular belief, showing that you’re human, is a good thing! People want solid leadership not a robot in command.
Great leaders create an unparalleled Experience. Why do millions of people stampede through the doors of Starbucks every single day of the year? Could it be the tall, half-caf caramel macchiato has them in a trance? Is the coffee truly superior to other houses? Some would argue yes but even staunch Starbuckians will tell you that what makes them loyal, almost obsessive about Starbucks has about 10% to do with the actual coffee and 90% of the way they “feel” at Starbucks. The ambience. The friendly baristas who not only know their names but also what they’re going to order the minute they walk through the doors. They like the cool music that plays in the background as you wait for your drink. Could it be any of those things? Or is it all of those things? A multi-million dollar brand doesn’t become one by accident. The caretakers of the Starbucks brand understand that if you create an “experience” with customers they will follow you to the ends of the earth and maybe never even ask where you’re leading them.
Copyright 2007, Fran Harris Enterprises, LLC. No part of this article may be copied, reproduced or distributed without the permission of Fran Harris Enterprises, LLC or Fran Harris.