Leadership is an ongoing topic of discussion in professional circles. It’s little wonder that we work to categorically define them; leaders are important in nearly every consequential decision or venture.
In talking about leadership, I don’t intend to paint the definitive picture. With so many opinions and no ultimate standard, finding a measure for leadership often develops out of subjective experience.
As a longtime participant in Michigan’s political arena, I’ve worked with or under many individuals who were held up as excellent leaders by both their peers and the public. Instead of telling you what a good leader is or should be, I want to add some very personal observations about behaviors I’ve found common to these individuals.
It’s key to relationships of all kinds, but aptitude for effective communication has been a hallmark of excellent leaders. Information, perspective and direction between a leader and those he/she influences inspires confidence and trust. Raw charisma helps make people likeable, but meaningful, clear communications keep everyone on track and on the same page. Through meetings, emails, phone calls, and texts, effective leaders check in and make concentrated efforts to keep lines of communication active whenever possible.
Whether you are delegating tasks inside or brokering a deal outside, every effort to collaborate shows investment and inspires action in others. Though it’s critically important to distinguish between substantive involvement and micromanagement, effective leaders endeavor to make your work a part of theirs, placing value on your time as much as their own. Showing interest in the work of others encourages people to stay focused, hold themselves to a higher standard, and grant reciprocal respect for your own duties and workload.
Though taking hard stances has significant political and professional value, leaders need to know the value of compromise and take an active role in negotiations. A demonstrated willingness to work towards agreement and resolve disputes can inspire others to soften their own stances and, in the future, look to you to establish common ground. It requires a delicate and practiced approach, but knowing how to navigate sensibilities and balance priorities showcases a leader’s acumen. Good leaders build bridges where others would burn them.
Leaders who inspire stand out as people comfortable in their own skin, consistent in their beliefs, and conscious of themselves and others. They back the plays they believe in, defend those under them, and generally treat situations and people with appropriate respect. They lead by example, regardless of whether or not they intend to do so, and cultivate positive relationships and a positive reputation simply by being the same person in and out of the spotlight.
About the author: Steve Heikkinen serves as the Communications and Marketing Strategist for Grassroots Midwest, Michigan’s only bipartisan political advocacy firm.