October, 2007
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Defining Good Leadership

BILL SUTTON

The upcoming presidential election has got me thinking … thinking about what qualities I should be looking for in our presidential candidates. What characteristics are important for the leader of the free world or for any leadership position for that matter? Whether a person is running for the president of the USA or for a position in ASHI, your assessment of each candidate’s leadership abilities is important.

What is leadership?
 

The art of influencing the actions and outcomes of others in a way that builds trust and commitment––that’s one definition of leadership. Sounds simple and straightforward, doesn’t it?

Without question, there are lots of ways to be a leader. Every day, you see many different leadership styles in sports, politics, big and small businesses and volunteer associations like ASHI. Nevertheless, before you become a leader, success is usually about nurturing and embracing yourself. Once you become a leader,
success should be about nurturing and embracing others as well.

What requisites are needed?


Although the definition of leadership noted above is stated simply and defined in a single sentence, the requisites needed to master the art of influencing the actions and outcomes of others are quite extensive and far from simple. Good leadership requires many distinct
behaviors, attitudes and actions. In fact, I didn’t realize how many until I sat down, gave it some thought and started my inventory. The following list is not all-inclusive as any list like this must be considered a work in progress. The items listed below are not necessarily in order of priority. I suspect that each one of us might have a different top 10, but I believe good leadership always starts with integrity, responsibility and respect (of others and by others).

Several items on the list may be duplicates or synonyms in some form or fashion, but contextually may be expressed or emphasized differently. Therefore, I believe, worth repeating. This list of principles turned out to be surprisingly (at least to me) quite extensive; and, as I began to write and develop it, it seemed almost endless. The value of the number of principles and “length” of the list further reinforces my belief that it truly does take a lot to be a good leader (so appreciate good leadership when you get it).

Are leadership principles timeless?


The more the world changes, the more leadership principles stay the same. Good leadership principles are timeless. And, they apply to all of us, no matter what roles we play in our own lives as well as in ASHI. So here’s my “timeless list” of some of the principles, qualities, skill sets, characteristics, behaviors and values appropriate for good leadership.

Can you make it through the list?


Integrity; responsibility; respect; honor; insight; trust; humility; vision;  duty; self-esteem; confidence; commitment; common sense; self control; understanding; communication skills; knowledge; wisdom; enthusiasm; discipline; patience; sacrifice; energy; devotion; positive attitude; tolerance; compassion; sympathy; love; empathy; faith; objectivity; fairness; adaptability; perspective; curiosity; self-appraisal; sensitivity (to the needs of others); daring; willingness to take risks; perseverance; desire; drive; ability to work with and motivate others and yourself; inspire others; set priorities; overcome fears; ability to bounce back from failures; know what questions to ask; persistent problem-solving abilities; courage to act; never lose sight of the ‘big’ (whole) picture; identify challenges; poise and inner discipline; create a foundation for teamwork; be a facilitator not an order giver (consult with, listen to and involve the people you’re leading); ability to change and adjust; confront trouble head on; bring people together; look for the good in others; look for the leadership in others; show appreciation; give reasons; give credit; keep people informed; face reality; don’t let ego get in the way; be brave, not brash; admit and learn from mistakes, cut losses, shrug them off and keep going; know yourself; be comfortable with your self; keep your eye on your objectives; keep improving; work hard; study hard; have initiative; lighten-up; have a sense of humor; always say “please” and “thank you”; pursue excellence and innovation; be cheerful, caring and helpful; accept things you can’t change; change the things you can change, that need changing; learn to deal with stress and adversity (there will always be some hard times); accept hardship and failure; love your work; dispel rumor, slander, and bragging; avoid abusing power and authority; don’t make promises you can’t keep; be credible and dependable; give compliments; be forgiving; apologize when you are wrong; laugh when the joke’s on you; examine your demands of others; listen more and talk less; be kind,  optimistic and develop a can-do spirit; go to war against animosity and complacency; express your gratitude and show appreciation; take care of yourself and continue to nurture your mind, body and spirit; take plenty of time for thought; get real (phoniness is transparent and tiresome); do not equate money or material goods with success or a man’s worth; beware of zealots and extremists and abrasive, angry, vengeful, self-righteous and judgmental people; keep an open mind; seek out different opinions; understand
different points of view; understand the difference between urgent and important; be action-oriented; understand that being a leader is 95 percent about people and 5 percent other things; have the ability to use whatever resources are available and are needed, and get information and act on it; willingness to try new ideas; accept the facts; be exact; and, in all things do your best.

Can you add to the list?


Well, now, when you think of leadership or good leaders, what principles, qualities, characteristics, behaviors, attitudes and values would you add to “The List”?  I would be most interested in your thoughts and any additions to the list you might want to share; contact  
billsutton@billsutton.com.

Finally, in addition to developing, cultivating and exercising their admirable leadership qualities and their rock-solid value system, good leaders want to belong to and help build something greater than themselves. Dr. Steven Covey, founder of the Covey Leadership Center and author of many books on the subject says (paraphrased), “The growth and development of leadership may occur from the inside out, but we are driven to it from the outside in … from the need that all of us have to serve, to matter, to contribute to the lives of others and to society, to be involved in something of transcendent meaning … to leave a legacy.” In other words, using our personal strengths and leadership abilities to serve some larger end.

How does one become a leader?


It has been my experience that most volunteer leaders do not set out to be  leaders. Warren Bennis, who authored the book, On Becoming A Leader, agrees, “People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression becomes of value, they become leaders.”

ASHI is always looking for and can always benefit from people who have value in their ideas, have a vision, determination, want to make strategic choices, enhance their profession and help lead our society in a manner of which we can all be proud. Changes in ASHI, changes in our profession and changes in the world come from people … ordinary people like you and me. Remember, leadership isn’t the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others. Good leadership relies on your own humanity, things that may not be taught in business schools or by consultants or in books. It is as much an inner journey of enlightenment as it is an outward expression of your beliefs and behaviors. Good leaders arouse and build excitement, trust and commitment in others, and provide the emotional cohesiveness that causes organizations and the people in them to excel. They set the tone for the organization. Leaders have an instinctual need to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can. Leadership is defined by what we do; it is action, not a position.

Are you ready to liberate the leader in yourself?


Real leaders are people with good values and extraordinary determination. Liberate the leader in yourself and extraordinary things happen. If you want to help lead a dynamic and pre-eminent organization, ASHI wants and needs you to step up. So, please join in. You will not regret it and you’ll never go back.