As Martin Luther King Jr. said: The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. It is easy! You just have to pay attention, know in which direction you are headed, and go with the flow.
On the other hand, when the sea is not calm and going with the flow is not an option, true leaders step up and take command. And that’s what makes them great.
Great leadership is not required when things go well and conditions are perfect. Great leadership is required when challenges appear, difficult situations arouse, and the team needs support and direction. Real leaders are the ones that calm the turbulent sea, show confidence, and point the way out of it.
Douglas MacArthur defined true leadership like this:
A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.
In most cases, it’s easiest to identify true leaders when things go wrong.
Here are three traits that define great leaders:
They are proud of who they are
Even when circumstances are not ideal, great leaders believe in their organization, their employees (or followers) and their culture. They are proud of who they are and what they represent and never doubt their identity. When things go wrong and the organization comes under pressure, this awareness becomes even more important and allows them to go on in spite of whatever challenges present themselves.
In changing times, leaders need to stay true to their vision and reiterate organizational values so that everyone rows in the same direction. A strong corporate culture can turn fear into confidence and become the best protection against difficult situations.
In the end, any team, department or organization needs to be, above all, a common cause for each one of its members.
We vs. I
Great leaders take responsibility when things don’t work and share successes when things go well. No matter why the team failed, he or she is the one to blame. This is how they create the conditions that allow the team to make mistakes, speak honestly and find fulfillment.
In other words, they use “We” instead of “I” and – ALWAYS – put the interest of the organization ahead of their own self-interest.
Great leaders create more leaders by empowering others and allowing them to make mistakes. Everyone has permission to fail, as long as they fail fast and passionately!
They NEVER quit
As Vince Lombardi said:
Winning is not a sometime thing; it is an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit.
Winners never quit and quitters never win! Great leaders plan to win, prepare to win, and play to win. And even more importantly, they never give up. Even if the journey gets tough and the light at the end of the tunnel begins to dim, they are able to get back on track and move forward.
Resilience is part of their DNA — they possess the ability to fall and stand up quickly, learn from past mistakes and focus on the road ahead. When they are put to the test, they stay strong and keep going. And that’s how they succeed.
Remember: Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.
Featured photo credit: Surian Soosay via flickr.com