First they are role models. The combine two disparate characteristics at the same time – determination and humility. They have to believe in the integrity of the purpose and mission of the organization they lead, and give others a sense of hope and meaning. To do this requires being a good listener. It also means being able to foster dialogue. Good leaders avoid grandiosity – a real temptation when one is at the head of the pack.
Second they have to be fast learners – students as well as mentors. And it’s not just the ability to recognize the brutal facts; one has also to confront them. To understand the realities it’s not just enough to know the facts and figures and the processes. Leaders also have to have respect for human beings. Finally have to be focused on the big picture and the future, while they allow others to focus on their areas of specialization.
Third, they have to avoid the temptation to think that it is all about their personal charisma. Instead, leaders have to be trustees of community potential. This is extraordinarily demanding and the next post will suggest some actions that will help them do that.