We throw around the word leader as if everyone understands what the term means. Sometimes people understand what a good leader is by experiencing a poor one. I had many ‘leaders’ who ruled with domination, intimidation and demanded respect because of their title. They treated people poorly and expected people to do what they were told. They operated by creating an environment of fear, confusion and mockery. They were horrible bosses and even worse leaders, yet in their organizations they were considered the head honcho.
I had a mentor who was a great leader – kind, thoughtful, lead by example and learned as much from us as we learned from him. He listened, challenged and encouraged and even reprimanded people in private. He was concerned about us as individuals and his main goal was to help us figure out what we wanted to do next. His inspiration and attitude of cooperation was a truly wonderful thing to behold.
I learned a great deal from both of these types of leaders. My greatest life lessons were learned from both poor and great leaders. Sometimes I was learning how never to treat people and other times I was observing how a true people leader looked, talked and acted. I was smart enough to pay attention and learn what I could from both.
Some leaders have titles that signify their role, others have achievements and personal character that exemplifies that their life long journey includes being a great leader. And some people lord their title and power over people to demand respect and compliance. If you think of yourself as a leader which one are you? Are you a leader in title, personal character or do you expect to be treated like a leader because you have earned it? If you ask people who know you well – and you allow them to be honest, they will tell you what you may or may not want to hear.