Listening to my readers emails I have to answer this question. How can I prepare myself for leadership without formalized training? Or I am in a smaller department with a limited training budget and training opportunities. I am preparing for promotion or just recently promoted and need some guidance on leadership. What can I do right away to set my leadership compass on the right path? Of course there are on-line alternatives, books and such. However, my first step in the process is to sit down, grab a pad and pen. Now there are three categories of leaders for this drill. The Good, the Bad and the Evil.
Three of each please!
In your life experience you will have had the pleasure to have served under some very good leaders, a few bad ones and some who were just plain damned evil. No emails with names please! I want you to jot down the three categories and under each one write down a leader that fits the description. Usually the Evil ones come to mind first, then the bad and the truly good ones are the most difficult.
Now jot down by each name what they did to deserve being placed in their respective or infamous category. This could be a sentence or phrase to remind you as you continue this drill. Let me think of one, such as the night the captain started a riot by being out of control himself. Once you get this completed, review all named in the three categories and summarize in a word or so, what leadership trait did they exhibit or lack? These will serve as the base line for the completion of this drill.
Most leadership courses usually ask of that the students perform some comparison of leadership styles of famous or infamous leaders. Then by magic you could ask them a line of questions regarding leadership or which famous leader (s) would you like to have dinner with? I have seen one to several drills like this with a variety of twists. And you hear the usual laundry list of responses that include the world’s greatest historical, military and religious leaders. I feel that most students name some religious or fantastic figures just to posture themselves in the class, therefore their training is void. This drill should be from your work, your world and not what others think of you; therefore personal meaning to you and nobody else. Like I said this canned historical drill is non-applicable to me. Who would I pick if the magical wand could wave up figures? Mine would have been General George S. Patton for his leadership principles. Next would be Miyamoto Musashi for his insights into tactics. Add Thomas Jefferson for his analytical approaches to problems. Finally I would select Niccolò Machiavelli to help understand politics. Would this be awesome for me, absolutely, for you probably not. Now, in reality, this could never be accomplished. How could you interpret between several very distinct eras of history, several languages and what in the world would I serve this group for dinner anyway?
The reason I ask you to put down names of leaders that you have seen and worked around is this is contemporary of your era, your line of work and applicable to your station in life. I do not believe that some famous leader could direct a criminal investigation; their personal traits could guide you. In other words, it has got to work for you in real life application and not in theory alone. Recall you are in a time restraint here and need answers and not philosophical idealisms. From each of the names in the three categories take one trait or skill that they possess or did not posses. I told you to select bad and evil, they are the ones that have a weakness or trait that you need to avoid. My best analogy is baking cake. You are the flour, the main substance or the foundation of the cake. If there is something you like you add it. If a leader has great compassion for the work and staff, you add it as you would chocolate. If a dreaded or inept leader lacked a trait or had a particularly bad habit, you would not add that ingredient in your cake. As each leader is different, so is each recipe for baking the perfect dessert. Not all desserts are made for the closing of every meal, not all leaders are adaptive to every single situation.
Your becoming a great leader is a balancing act of embracing the best traits and avoiding the pitfalls of others. Your goal here is to become an effective leader and one day, when one of your staff has to fill out the list, your name is not under the bad or the evil.