Last week I was asked by a friend what I consider the most important aspects of leadership. Spontaneously, I came up with the following two:
A good leader should always be open about her objectives and the team’s goals. She’s supposed to communicate timely and clearly – especially when it comes to bad news. A leader should also be dependable, i.e.: She should adhere to her decisions, admit when she’s wrong and not act behind people’s backs or have an agenda of her own.
Besides that a good leader should set clear goals and delegate tasks accordingly. Most importantly though, a leader should seek first to understand then to be understood. The clichéd self-important, chest-thumping alpha isn’t a good leader at all because he values his own goals higher than those of the team. A good leader knows how to inspire others while not taking himself too seriously.
The movie Ender’s Game deals extensively with this subject. The protagonist manages to lead a ragtag bunch of people to excellence (the movie’s other theme – the fallacies and atrocities of war – are a completely different matter, though) by listening to them and drawing on each of their skills instead of short-sightedly relying on the extrinsic authority provided by his higher rank.