The Importance of Leadership

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you know that leadership is about people. You understand that things are managed and people are led. 

 

Not all managers are also tasked with leading people but nearly all, or more likely absolutely all, leaders are also tasked with some management responsibility. 

 

And that’s a problem. 

 

It’s a problem because the management “stuff” almost always comes with deadlines. Quarter end, year-end inventory, budget preparation for the upcoming year, planning, bill paying, payroll, you name it, when it comes to managing it HAS to be done and it has to be done on time.

 

But leading seldom has deadlines. You’ll always have people and it is easy to let people wait. You can always recognize somebody later. “Someday” is the perfect time to coach or mentor a rising star in your organization. There’s always tomorrow in the world of leadership but I challenge you to find later, someday or tomorrow on your calendar. 

 

Virtually every leader I’ve ever asked has told me that their people are their greatest asset but follow them around for a week and you would be certain that statement was false. You’d be certain it was false because all the management stuff seems to be a priority while the leadership responsibilities and activities all seem to be optional.

 

The fact is the management stuff is urgent while the leadership behavior is merely important and in the fast-paced, competitive environment where most of us work urgent almost always trumps important.

 

But here’s the thing, the best, most effective leaders don’t let the urgent win. They literally schedule leadership activities in their calendar. They set aside time to interact with their people. They block out time on their calendars to get out from behind their desks and go into the workplace where their people are. They make it a point to provide frequent and meaningful recognition.

 

Authentic Leaders know that you can’t lead people without being involved and interacting with them. They understand that you can’t lead people you don’t care about and you can’t show you care about them until you know them.  


Be an Authentic Leader. Never let the urgent “things” overtake the absolute importance of truly leading the people who are ultimately responsible for your success and the success of your organization. 

Where Management and Leadership Skills Meet

I have written several times on the vast difference between managing and leading. Managing is about “stuff’, budgets, inventory, buildings, executing plans, etc. Leading is about people and only about people. 

 

Simply put, if you’re doing it for your business it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people then it’s leadership. 

 

When what you’re doing is good for the organization AND a person or persons it’s what I call Manleaship.

 

The skill sets and more importantly the mindset of managers and leaders are almost completely different. It is very common in business that a person is either a manager or leader but not both. 

 

A business or organization that has people with good management skills and other people with good leadership skills can do okay, but only okay. A business or organization that has a person, or hopefully people, who have good management skills combined with good leadership skills can do better than okay…much much better. 

 

Managers likely know and understand the skills and abilities of their people. Managers, and I DO NOT mean this in a negative sense, tend to look at their people as assets or resources which in some sense they are. But leaders, especially Authentic Leaders and especially, especially, Authentic Servant Leaders look at their people as people, living breathing people with wants and needs, and challenges with a life outside of the workplace.

 

Managers and leaders have a different, sometimes very different, view of the same picture.

 

If a business or organization is going to do more than just okay then they need to make sure each person within their organization is in a position or performing a role that allows them the greatest chance for success. Some leaders and managers seem to forget that they and their organization cannot be successful if the people who make up the organization are unsuccessful. 

 

Never forget, as a leader or a manager you will never be more successful than your people.

 

So imagine how hard it is to help people succeed, to place them in roles with the greatest chance for success, when you only see one view of their picture. Throughout my career I’ve seen friends, family, and colleagues promoted or placed into positions where they had no chance to be successful. 

 

They may have had all the skills needed to excel but they did not have the temperament. Their physical and mental skills may have been excellent but their people skills simply didn’t measure up. Perhaps they had outstanding human relation skills but lacked some vital skill in another area. 

 

A pure manager or a pure leader could easily miss those critical facts. 

 

A person with both skill sets, or Manleaship skills likely would not. 

 

The combination of management and leadership skills may not be needed all that often but when it’s needed it’s really needed. So if you’re at or near the top of an organization that hasn’t been blessed with people who possess Manleaship skills then you need your managers and leaders to be talking with each other everyday. 


Who knows, that endless conversation may just result in them sharing their skill sets and you could end up with lots of people with Manleaship skills. Then you’ll be doing way better than just okay!

Don’t Smooth Things Over

Courageous leaders don’t smooth things over. They don’t put band-aids on the symptoms of a problem. They don’t pretend “things” are okay when they know darn well they are not and they never ever expect that a problem will just fix itself. 

 

What courageous leaders do is make things right, even if sometimes that means plunging headfirst into conflict. 

 

There are and have been many a great leader who preferred to avoid conflict when possible but I can’t think of a single truly great leader from the past or present who avoids conflict at all costs. 

 

The most effective leaders know that “smoothing over” a problem isn’t much different than burying it under a rock. Sooner or later someone comes along and turns the rock over exposing the problem with all it’s rough edges on display once again. 

 

Weaker leaders avoid conflicts because to them conflict means emotionally charged turmoil and fights and disruption and drama. In the hands of a weak leader that’s probably true.

 

Under the guidance of an Authentic Leader, especially an Authentic Servant Leader, a conflict represents the opportunity for genuine learning and long-term growth. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders meet conflict head-on with the compassion, integrity, and understanding that you would expect from such a leader. They know that the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it so they work diligently to lower relationship tension and the emotions that go with it. 

 

They lead the discussion with whatever facts are irrefutable to build common ground. They show empathy for every side of a conflict without minimizing the importance of anyone’s feelings. 

 

They want everyone involved in the situation to come out of it with their self-esteem and the conflict gone. 

 

When that works it’s a great accomplishment. But the truth is it doesn’t always work. 

 

When it doesn’t work the Authentic Servant Leader sets aside the Authentic Servant part and simply leads. If forced, they impose a solution that ends the conflict. They decide! They take action! That may mean some really bad stuff happens to someone involved in the conflict but the conflict is resolved and it’s resolved for good. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders do not allow conflict to linger. Conflicts are like an organizational cancer. Leaders should help diagnose and treat the conflict but if it can’t be treated it must be removed. That will likely result in some injured feelings. Authentic Servant Leaders understand that at least a part of their organization may require some time to heal from an imposed solution. They also know that needing a little time to heal is far better than dealing with a slow burning conflict that never ends.

 

I firmly believe in helping everyone in an organization feel valuable and in continually building their self-esteem. But in every case, in every single case, the good of the many must outweigh the good of the one. 


Dealing with conflict is one of the biggest challenges for a true leader but it’s one they don’t run from, in fact, the very best leaders run to it. 

Uncommon Leadership

I’ve had the opportunity to spend several days recently with a person recently promoted to a leadership position. He was very good at what he did and earned his promotion. His promotion came with a new title and higher income, unfortunately what it didn’t come with was any hint of how to actually lead. So he doesn’t lead, he just tries to get by managing his new team.

I’ve seen the same scenario play out literally hundreds of times through the years. A person is good at what they do so they are promoted into a leadership role even through they have little, or more commonly, no leadership experience or skills at all.

I call them common leaders. I don’t mean to be disparaging here but it is what it is… common leadership really isn’t leadership at all. At its best it’s just managing and and at it’s worst it’s something much worse. That something involves fear, coercion and sometimes even outright abuse. 

Absent any real leadership skills people in leadership positions too often tend to use intimidation, coercion, threats and punishment to force the compliance of their people. 99.9% of the people in leadership positions who use those tactics are not bad people, it’s just that in many cases that’s how they were taught to “lead.” Sadly, they were likely taught to lead by people who themselves had few if any leadership skills. So the cycle of common leadership simply repeats itself. 

Individuals who do manage to break the cycle of common leadership and become uncommon leaders don’t do so on their own. They most often have a mentor or are led by someone who has broken through the common cycle themselves. 

Here’s one of the most interesting aspects of leadership: it can’t actually be taught but it can be learned. It is learned not so much by listening to a true leader but by watching them. 

Authentic leaders lead by example. They show the way to true uncommon leadership. I can tell people what to look for in a leader, I can share with them the characteristics that make a good leader, and I can even help them judge whether or not someone in a leadership position truly processes those characteristics but a person must teach themselves to lead. 

Let me give you one example. 

Caring for people, truly caring and investing yourself in another person’s success and well-being is an absolute characteristic of an uncommon, authentic leader. I can tell someone that, I can point out a person who has that characteristic but I know of no way to teach someone how to care. They must develop that caring nature on their own. The quickest way to do that is to see someone else display their own caring nature and decide if the results they see are something they want in their own life.

If you were taught to lead by someone who did not develop those uncommon leadership skills then my very best advice to you would be to find a mentor who has. Find a coach or hire a coach who will help you break that cycle of common leadership and become a leader who can actually make a positive difference in the lives of those they would lead. 

Never assume that a leadership position makes you a leader. A leadership position doesn’t come with the right to lead, that must be earned by demonstrating consistent leadership skills. 

Develop those skills and people will naturally follow you. 

Leaders Listen

Most of us, myself included, tend to take the ability to hear for granted. We also too often confuse the ability to hear with the ability to listen.

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

The best leaders listen. They are always listening. They even listen to things that they would just as soon not hear. 

Leaders make themselves available to hear the “noise” in their organizations because that’s like inside information.

Weak leaders try to silence the noise, better leaders encourage it and find a way to turn even negative noise into useful information. Think about it, would you as a leader rather pretend all is well or would you rather know where your opportunities for improvement might be?

When you listen, really really listen, you will likely hear some things you wish you hadn’t. You may even hear some stuff that isn’t true. You must also realize that part of your role as a leader requires that you have the ability to sort the good information from the not so good. (A bit of an aside here but as a leader you also do have a responsibility to stop untruths from being spread)

Authentic Servant Leaders know that good listening is the beginning of great ideas so they listen at every level of their organization. 

They also listen with more than their ears. They “listen” with their eyes to determine if what they are hearing matches with what they are seeing. They “listen” with their heart as well to determine the level of emotion attached to what was said. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that communication is a participative endeavor and that actually communicating requires them to listen more than they talk. 

If you’re a true leader then you certainly know that you still have much to learn. Hopefully then you also know that you’ll learn more in a few minutes of listening then you’ll learn in hours of talking. 

So listen up. Listen to what was said, listen to how it was said, listen to when it was said, and listen to whoever said it. 

You’ll never know where your next learning opportunity will come from unless you’re always listening. Anyone can teach everyone something and that means as a leader you should invest the time to hear from all of your people. 

Did you hear that?

Leadership Integrity

Authentic Servant Leaders know that if they don’t have integrity all the time then they don’t have integrity at all. 

Without integrity you will find it very difficult, I would say virtually impossible, to truly lead. You may be able to manipulate, you may be able to coerce, and you may be able to force compliance but none of that has much to do with true leadership. 

Leadership posers, people who occupy positions of leadership without really leading can at best get the compliance of their people. True leaders, especially Authentic Servant Leaders, earn the commitment of their people.

Untrusted leaders are unfollowed leaders and if no one is following… well then they’re really not leaders at all.

Integrity is the foundation on which all other leadership characteristics are built. There are many leadership qualities and characteristics that matter it’s just that they all matter less, much less, if integrity is lacking.

You can have great judgment, you can care for your people, you can have tremendous vision, but if your people can’t trust you then they can’t follow you. Notice I didn’t say “won’t” follow you, I said “can’t.”

Follower-ship requires the follower to have some level of commitment to the leader. It is almost humanly impossible to commit to a person we don’t trust. Trust comes straight from the integrity tree. 

No integrity means no trust, no trust means no commitment, no commitment means no follower-ship. 

Authentic Servant Leaders know that it’s a waste of time to talk about their integrity. They also know that people of high integrity don’t need to talk about it because they are showing it all the time. 

Demonstrating integrity means making certain that your thoughts, word, and actions are all in alignment. Demonstrating integrity means showing that you do what’s good for all, not for one. 

We’ve all seen too many people who have sacrificed their integrity for a shot at the top spot of an organization (or a country) and in doing so also gave up their opportunity to truly lead. If you’ve seen it happen to other people then you know it happens.

Only you can make certain that it doesn’t happen to you! 

 

A Position of Leadership

You can be promoted to a management position and that makes you a manager. It doesn’t necessarily make you a good manager but it does make you a manager. It does not, it absolutely does not, make you a leader.

You can be promoted to a leadership position as well but that absolutely DOES NOT make you a leader. Not even a bad leader, no promotion, no matter how high up in an organization, makes you a leader.

Followers make you a leader. Turn around sometimes and see if anyone is following you. If they are not then you might be going somewhere but you’re not leading.

Two of the biggest leadership mistakes that an organization or person can make is believing that management and leadership positions are automatically one and the same and thinking that having a leadership position makes you a leader.

As I’ve written a thousand times, you manage stuff and you lead people. The skill sets and more importantly, the mindsets, are very different. Yes, one person can possess both but that is far rarer than many people think. 

You do not need a title or position to lead. Leadership is far more about disposition than it is position. 

Leading requires that you make a decision to influence others to your way of thinking and doing. 

Authentic Leadership requires that you make a decision to influence others to your way of thinking and doing and to do so in as a transparent and consistent method as possible. 

Authentic Servant Leadership requires that you make a decision to influence others to the best way of thinking and doing and to do so in as a transparent and consistent method as possible. It also requires that you truly care about the people you lead and that your actions frequently put your people ahead of yourself. 

You might not be sure if you’re talking to a leader or if the leader you’re talking to is an Authentic Leader but you will most certainly know when your interacting with an Authentic Servant Leader, their caring nature and concern for your well-being is almost constantly on display. 

If you’ve earned a leadership position then congratulations. Your first task should be to also earn the right to truly lead. The next handful of posts will discuss what skills and characteristics you’ll need to earn that right. 

Step one to earning the right to lead is realizing that your position or title merely gives you a head start. It’s your actions and how people respond to them that will determine if you’re actually a leader.