What does the modern leader look like?
A leader is followed because they are able to communicate vision, prove their competency, and empower those around them with the knowledge that they have gained. To be a leader, you have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in and you have to be an expert of your cause.
I have found three common characteristics and abilities that seem to define every great leader.
A good leader needs to be able to communicate their vision to their followers. Everyone has heard this, but what is “vision?” Vision is the ability to see and set an end goal. It is not a tagline, but a road map to a very specific destination, with a very specific purpose. In other words, vision, like goals (which are waypoints on the map), must be definable and measurable.
I believe that God has set a unique purpose for each one of us and, as leaders, our job is to understand that purpose then invite others to follow us. Our message must be clear, but more than that, we must be firm and resolute in our mission. People will want to persuade us that we are going down the wrong path; even those closest to you may try to turn your direction away from your vision. Not because they are vindictive, but simply because they believe that their vision is more important than yours. The hardest part about communicating vision is following up on that vision and requiring anyone that wants to follow you to get on board. Whether you have a business, a non-profit, or even a church, your duty as a leader is to find and inspire the people that want to go along with you. Don’t get sidetracked trying to convince everyone. If someone does not want to get on board, it’s ok – don’t drag them along. Release them so they can align themselves with others who share their vision. A great leader knows that they should not have to debate their way to success, instead they communicate their vision, and invite anyone who wants to come along to get on board.
Prove Your Competency
A leader can only be effective from the front. That means that they have to be the first to act; only then can they invite others to follow. You can’t communicate a vision and push everyone out the door to go fulfill it. If you want people to follow you, you have to be able to offer up your expertise and experience as a guide. You have to have already visited the destination or at least done all your research so that you can confidently lead people down the right path.
As leaders, this means that we can’t just communicate our vision then pray that God sends someone to fulfill it. No, the work must be ours. This does three things:
1) It keeps us focused. If we have to participate, then we can’t have our hands in a hundred or even a dozen different things. Focus breeds success and prevents us from missing the mark altogether by having too many distractions vying for our attention. A good leader knows that the best work comes from 100% attention to one cause at a time.
2) Participating as a leader also helps motivate others. When they see that you care about the work, they also want to care that much more.
3) Lastly, being an active participant allows you to know exactly what is working and what is not so that you can make quick course corrections along the way.
Equip and Empower Your Followers
Many leaders believe that they get their power and authority from the “secret” knowledge that they have. They end up being micromanagers out of fear that teaching others may make them, as the leader, obsolete. I have a different approach. I believe that a true leader strives to make themselves obsolete. The truest test of a great leader is what happens to the group after the leader leaves. A great leader will have instilled so much knowledge and passion into the group that it continues to follow the vision long after the leader is gone. Just as the leader must actively engage in order to achieve success, they also must be able to equip and empower their followers to participate.