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A Conversation About Leadership, Part 2

Doug: Great, so a leader is someone who produces extraordinary results and around whom other leaders emerge and for the moment we are discussing specifically leaders of teams of people rather than people who “lead themselves”. You mention the hurdles of producing the result and in my experience the hurdles are a critical part of the process.

How does a leader get a team of people, each of whom may have issues or challenges personally, through a process of producing the intended results?

I see many opinions online about how leaders necessarily make people around them feel empowered or are always good listeners or always create a fun or exciting environment. It seems that many believe that the only way to lead is to be nice, charming, gregarious, empowering and fun. Is that your experience? Are true leaders always a pleasure to be with? Do they necessarily make the people around them feel a certain way? Is that how they get through the, “hurdles of actually producing the result”?

Allan: Many of the people I consider to be true leaders are, at least superficially, not much fun to be with. A couple of my heroes regularly scared people that met them. They were intense, profane, sometimes bordering on being bullies. As I got to know them better, I discovered that they had big hearts, loved people, and were generous and trusting. After I got over my fear of them, I did love being around them.

The thing that encouraged me to perform around them was that they trusted me completely to get the job done. Being empowered isn’t just having the freedom to do a job, it’s also about being responsible for the result that is produced. These guys clearly were holding me responsible. AND, they were also responsible for my result. When the going got tough and the hurdles seemed insurmountable, they didn’t look to blame me or anyone else. They became a resource to aid me in solving the problems. Consequently, I always felt a part of their team, and that we were all in this together.

As for the hurdles, I believe that no extraordinary result is achieved without encountering situations that, at least at first, seem insurmountable. Therefore, by definition, a true leader must be adept at leading his or her team over, through, or around these hurdles.

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