Leadership strength includes more than you think

Leadership strength is much more than what most people think it is.

One of the top ten characteristics of great leaders, leadership strength certainly incorporates the classic signs and skills needed for effective use of leadership power. Many of these characteristics are covered in other posts on this blog.

Among these skills and inclinations are initiative, the ability to engage people in a vision of the future and to motivate them to move forward.

Leadership strength also includes persistence, or the ability to push through barriers that would discourage people with far less fortitude.

In addition, leadership strength includes – yes – sensitivity and humility.

Excellent leaders are able to listen to, observe and learn from the many people who are involved in creating success.

The groups an excellent leader needs to be well-tuned into include direct reports, managers, peers, as well as customers, of course.

Leadership strength also includes humility. It means being able to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question,” or “We made a mistake and we are doing everything we can to correct it. Here’s how…”

That’s because honesty and integrity are very significant parts of a leader’s strength and power.

The people around a leader know if he or she is being honest, and it definitely affects that person’s ability to lead, in many ways.

When I asked professional colleagues for examples of strong leaders, the following are just a few of the people they cited, along with their descriptions of the strengths they saw in these individuals:

Alvin Ailey was an American choreographer who started a dance company in New York that bears his name.

Said the person who suggested him as a strong and effective leader, “He’s been gone for 20 years, yet his dancers still feel like it’s his company. He was nurturing, creative, generous, ambitious, kind, appreciative.”

Golda Meir was the Israeli prime minister in the early 70’s.

She was noted by one person because, “She was strong, reassuring, straight-talking, determined.

Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian political and spiritual leader who led through non-violence.

The colleague who suggested Gandhi as a powerful example of strong leader said, “He had the willingness to take on huge goals and then work persistently to find allies and to communicate his key points not only in words but in actions.

“He was also able to admit mistakes (“though not always,” she added) and then to look for a better way to accomplish goals. Most of all I admire his insistence that there are no short cuts to the goal, that the path taken is also the goal, itself.