Exemplary leaders create a safe climate to help those led form and focus on controllable factors to reach a shared mission aided by precise values. Anyone with followers is a leader. That’s why we must beware of narcissists — self-absorbed with inflated egos — who inspire people and shape a future for themselves. History shows people follow them even to commit suicide. Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh led millions astray with their sick dogma. Narcissists exist in politics, the military, churches, religious groups, businesses, education, and elsewhere. Although we can spot them and their destructive ways, still, they command huge followers among the educated and uneducated.
Religious folks are susceptible to snake oil salespeople creeping in their midst. Be alert to these leaders’ behaviour, not their words. In today’s mega church age, with leaders having easy access to significant funds based on emotional responses of their congregations, it’s crucial churches install proper accountability. Politicians, too, have quick and easy access to considerable funds through millions of people they manipulate with lies, innuendos, and promises. They need checks and balances from unselfish people with high morals to hold them to account and expose their trickery.
The Teacher Leadership Principle
In a previous blog, I discussed the APPLE Leadership Principle, five essential leadership attitudes. Here, I continue the leadership discourse with the TEACHER Leadership Principle, identifying other crucial leadership qualities. TEACHER is an acronym for transparent, encourage, authentic, compassion, humble, equip, and role model. Adopting this principle will help create an emotionally safe place where people function without stress. Check your leader’s behavior against these two principles.
Transparency means keeping the team informed. It’s giving honest feedback — sharing the good and the bad without over sharing. It shows the leader accepts genuine feedback from team members and it leads to trust, which leaders develop by action. Transparency means what you see is who the leader is, including his core values and his warts. Transparency leads to approachability that will encourage team members to be open.
Encouragement is a vital leadership attribute. Webster’s Dictionary defines encouragement as the “act of inspiring others with renewed courage renewed spirit or renewed hope.” An able leader encourages and doesn’t allow negatives to overshadow honest feedback. If the leader must talk about a person’s performance, she starts by finding areas the person did well. She doesn’t begin the conversation showing the person how he messed up. People don’t listen when we begin an appraisal with their negatives; they become demotivated. Mull over this John Maxwell quote: “People go farther than they thought they could when someone else thinks they can.”
According to Merrian-Webster, authentic is “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” It’s being who you are when nobody is looking. Authentic leaders are predictable, have values, and do not decide situationally, but based on facts and absolute truth. Authenticity means being real, genuine–not a fake, not a fraud, not an imitation. It is presenting who you are as a person. Authenticity develops trust, which is critical for individual and team performance.
We speak about strong and weak leaders, particularly in sports. That’s old school McGregor’s Theory X, Theory Y thinking. We aren’t talking weight lifting or strength training. Compassionate leaders are competent leaders. Leaders with compassion know their feelings, the impact of words, and the need for sensitivity. Compassionate leaders will encourage others and will be effective communicators.
A dynamic leader knows she must equip the team to succeed. Research shows humble leaders listen, inspire others, and focus the team on the mission, not on themselves or their pet projects. A 2015 survey, Do Humble CEOs Matter? An Examination of CEO Humility and Firm Outcomes in the Journal of Management found humility in CEOs led to higher-performing leadership teams, increased collaboration and cooperation and flexibility in developing strategies. Jim Collins, in Good to Great, showed humility as one of two common traits of CEOs in companies that transitioned from average to superior market performance.
Investing time with the team is most effective in equipping team members, but it requires a significant effort by the leader, including continuous informal performance appraisals. Equipping others includes catching people doing right, encouraging, rewarding, cheerleading, and challenging individuals and team members. It is helping workers identify their career paths, developing and providing training programs, and guiding individuals without taking away their initiative.
Organizational and group culture develop from leaders’ behavior. When leaders provide a consistent, positive role model, the company, the group, team members will follow that lead. Leaders won’t be perfect, but they must practice what they preach and focus on others. Modeling desired behavior is a powerful leadership quality employees see and will emulate. The workforce sees leaders functioning and notes what they do.
Leaders show positive role models when they accept personal responsibility for their and their teams’ failures. Outstanding leaders try not to lose their tempers, never blame their team, and practice good ongoing communications. When leaders become excellent role models, workers become less stressed, more productive, and morale soars.
Test your leader’s behavior against The APPLE and The TEACHER Leadership Principles. When the leader is a narcissist, he or she won’t apply these behaviors because narcissists focus on themselves only. When we apply these principles, consistently we will lower turnover, create a safe workplace, have engaged highly productive workers. The reason is simple: These leadership principles place people in a pivotal position in the organization. Business is simple; it’s having customers. And firms with motivated workers delight customers with the firm’s goods and services.
© 2021 Michel A Bell