Acing the Test of Great Leadership

*DISCLAIMER: I may be wrong.

*OTHER DISCLAIMER: I may not be wrong.

*OTHER OTHER DISCLAIMER: It doesn’t matter.

*OTHER OTHER OTHER DISCLAIMER, or, DISCLAIMER CUBED: Great leaders only ace the leadership test if they do NOT seek credit for acing the test.

Without appearing old and crusty, I’ve been around. I’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two. Perhaps more than most people, I have walked through a diverse and wonderfully colorful career path.

I have adored some career choices more than others. To date, (and no, I don’t enjoy dating, but that’s a different article), I am wholly in love with and immersed in learning from the good, the bad and the ugly of pretty much everything.

For whatever reason, and I will mention some of what I believe are the reasons, I have often evolved into a leader, even though this is something I have fought against for much of my life.

While I have sometimes felt pressured to accept a leadership position or be fired, I think I am starting to understand what I believe are extremely valuable (essential) qualities of very strong leadership. Here goes: (Also, don’t forget my disclaimers, okay?)

  • A great leader does not need to take credit or receive much in the way of applause
  • A great leader never considers a brilliant idea stolen, and nor does she/he become offended, when a colleague claims idea as her/his own, but rather views it as a positive that collaborative systems are working well
  • A great leader meets people exactly where they are and implements actions based on realistic factors (I struggle with the second part of this one!)
  • A great leader, while always seeing a holistic view, creates and develops accessible systems in order to raise up all individuals and the organization as a whole
  • A great leader takes calculated risks and accepts the heat when they don’t fly
  • A great leader is appropriately transparent and accountable, internally and externally
  • A great leader elevates others and recognizes that this estimable action improves the leader as a leader!
  • A great leader knows that the very best ideas and systems are successful only through collaboration
  • A great leader has a healthy sense of boundaries, but NEVER buys into hierarchy
  • A great leader celebrates victories but does not claim victory as her/his own
  • A great leader takes it on the chin for the greater good of the team and proceeds to shift the group, into a positive direction
  • A great leader is either organized, or wise enough to locate all aspects of organization in order to run things well
  • A great leader has vision, compassion and clarity
  • A great leader needs help and asks for it
  • A great leader plays to strengths and helps stretch weaker muscles, in her/himself and others
  • A great leader values and fosters professional development for all
  • A great leader almost always finds the calm within a storm
  • A great leader is realistic and accepting about her/his own weaknesses and is selectively and strategically transparent about them, in order to elevate the collective group and organization
  • A great leader celebrates being a part of something far bigger than her/himself. (A great leader is right-sized)
  • A great leader is strategic and tactical or, is surrounded by others who are strategic and tactical (which is an excellent strategy.)
  • A great leader implements and follows an accessible, realistic organizational strategic plan
  • A great leader is hungry to learn from others and invariably, does
  • A great leader is responsible and enthusiastic about mentoring other great leaders
  • A great leader is many times, not located at the top of an organizational chart, and doesn’t really care

Whoa. There’s more, but I’m exhausted.

I have observed outstanding leadership on a few occasions, but not as often as I’d like to. Egos and/or arduous work to hide a leader’s weaknesses, lack of systems creation and/or implementation gets in the way. Many times, leaders who are labeled as leaders, can feel burdened by or anxious about their title, so they define and focus on what they think a leader is supposed to look like, rather than keeping her/his eyes on what’s really essential.

I am interested in learning from great leaders and also from the not so great leaders. In fact, I really love and embrace both facets of professional growth as they are invaluable lessons on what to do and what not to do.

Maybe that’s why I might be a leader at my core, as much as I prefer standing behind other leaders.

Either way, I’m being led to the next right move.

Doing What I Loathe Out of Love

I hate to even mention this, but since I’ve written a few articles about it and I sort of never shut up, there has been A LOT I haven’t liked about #GivingTuesday.

I don’t mean to be the cranky Jewish “Scrooge” of philanthropy, (Scrooge-stein?), but for me, unless #GivingTuesday is implemented in a uniquely creative manner that sets an organization apart, most nonprofits appear like they’re standing in line, waiting for a #GivingTuesday number at a busy deli, I kind of can’t stand it.  Continue reading “Doing What I Loathe Out of Love”

The Expert Neophyte

In my professional life, I take comfort AND yield countless benefits, from approaching things as a hungry collaborator who doesn’t know more than you do, no matter what the organizational chart says. I internally (and sometimes externally) overtly identify as a neophyte  (with extensive experience in leadership behind me), on a wide variety of subjects. I find this tactic not only propels my openness to learning and growth, but helps me perform with my ego checked at the door long before a project actually begins. (The more egos that can be checked at the door, obviously, produce fun and successful teamwork.) This often creates a level playing field, and an empowered ensemble that implements great work. Continue reading “The Expert Neophyte”

Shards of Glass in the Sandbox

Throughout most days, I find myself happiest when I feel like a kid playing in the sandbox with my friends. I often feel this way at work.

Sometimes, I get sad because I usually like to build BIG sandcastles and share my shovel and pail with everyone. Others don’t always want to build and share like I do. If I’ve had enough sleep and a good meal before I play in the sandbox, I tend to move right through these conflicts. If I am hangry, I periodically feel like throwing sand and stomping off in a huff because people won’t build and share nicely the way I do. Continue reading “Shards of Glass in the Sandbox”

Ageism is Myopically Immature

This week, I spent Monday morning with 96-year-old, Dyna Wise and her grandson, Lawrence Burley. The time I spent with these two extraordinary human beings, was not only the highlight of my week, but one of the most significant experiences of my entire nonprofit career.

Before I go any further, I’d like to provide a few initial facts that will make my story shorter. (I can almost hear your applause): Continue reading “Ageism is Myopically Immature”

Easy Exorcise: Fear of Public Speaking

Continue reading “Easy Exorcise: Fear of Public Speaking”

Self-proclaimed experts: You okay?

In the past few weeks, I have been catapulted into pondering what being an expert really means (to me), and why I have never held the opinion that I am an expert on or in anything.  Continue reading “Self-proclaimed experts: You okay?”