If you’re wondering if you possess the abilities of a leader begin by asking yourself if you’re a selfless person.
A few weeks ago I sat in an interview where I was asked how I would combat disobedience as a leader. I told them that in such a position, my effectiveness as a leader would be a failure. Leadership is proactive, not reactive; it isn’t a matter of implementing authority but rather garnering the confidence in those you’re leading to believe in your effectiveness as such.
Barking orders are easy. It’s easy to get something done. Unfortunately for some, these are not the rubrics for leadership. It’s difficult to tip toe this line as if to say that a level of competence and sufficiency aren’t necessary for effective leaders but what I’m getting at is that often they are confused as being the sole function of effective leadership.
Let’s return to the question of selflessness. In the army, great leaders were the first ones in and the last ones out of the combat zone. It was a measure to instill confidence going in and trust that everybody would be taken care of because he/she cared about all their soldiers.
Leadership is born in selflessness. A leader doesn’t think but rather actually believes that he or she needs to put their people before them. I had a First Sergeant who was a primary example of this and was as far as many of my peers, and I knew, one of the greatest leaders we had the pleasure of serving under. He once told me, his job, was to minimize the bullshit that came from above him while also completing their orders.
I recently saw a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, who uses another military example for the matter, “leaders eat last.” A real leader’s primary role is to inherit the responsibility of his or her subordinates. A leader is selfless in making sure his people eat first, or in that they are all off the combat zone before he or she leaves the combat zone.
The common traits missing with ineffective leadership is the selflessness and courage needed to stand in the fire long enough for your people to make it out of the fire. The selflessness that is keen in leaders is from accepting that you will never be perfect because you are protecting those below you.
If at this point you’re saying “I am! I’m a leader,” ask yourself if in the midst of adversity the same is true. During the calm, an inefficient leader can still complete the mission effectively; in a controlled environment many succeed, it’s in the midst of the consuming fire where a leader will muster the courage to stand up for his or her subordinates and selflessly defend them.