Words are powerful and I take them seriously. So when I state my belief that sound or healthy leadership is a moral responsibility, I’m serious about it. Merriam-Webster describes moral as, “of or relating to principles of right and wrong behavior” and “sanctioned by…one’s conscience or ethical judgement.”
Leadership is serious business; it’s not a hobby. Leaders are impacting people’s lives directly through their behaviors towards employees, customers, vendors and shareholders. They are also impacting them indirectly through the success (or lack thereof) of the organization.
I would say, then, that leadership falls squarely within the scope of moral behavior and can be described as either good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. And it can, in fact, be very ethical or unethical.
So, just what are the qualities of a “sound” leader? Based on my experience and research to date, they are:
- Visionary: Know where they’re going and why they’re going there; they have the expertise and the foresight
- Communicative: Share the vision clearly and relentlessly
- Resourceful: Provide the resources needed and clear the path of obstacles
- Inspirational: Possess the wisdom to motivate individual team members to do their personal best. (This is no small task as it involves a variety of skills and intuition.)
- Executional (It’s really a word; I checked.): Bottom-line: they do it; they make it happen; they are action-oriented
This summary is very fluid and I’m always open to new thoughts. But if a leader possesses these basic traits in reasonable measure, then they have the potential to be successful.
Obviously, then, chronic jerks, conflict-avoiders, desk-dwellers (the ones that don’t get out among the troops) analysis-paralysis types and others of this ilk need not apply. (So much more can be said here.)
So, to you who are either leaders yourselves or are in the business of selecting them (i.e. HR), I affirm that you have a moral responsibility to:
Assess yourself and determine where you possess these traits and where you need to develop them
Carefully scrutinize anyone assuming a leadership role (new-hire or promotion) or anyone already in the role under your leadership. Do they meet the criteria?
The stakes are as high as they’ve always been: peoples’ welfare and the success of your organization.