When most people think of great leaders, they get a certain picture in their minds (I know I do). It’s this vision of perfect confidence and grace. There’s a winning smile, a spotlight and the sound of applause in the background. It’s no wonder, with this concept of leadership, most of us are desperate to be leaders.
But it seems to me there are several aspects of leadership that tend to go unnoticed. These are the less attractive qualities of leadership, that many of us would like to leave out. But they are an equally important part of leadership.
Here are four that come to mind right away.
1. Great leaders often don’t get the credit.
For one reason or another, great leaders often don’t get the credit for their efforts, their great ideas, or their creativity. In fact, I would say that some of the greatest leaders I know and have worked with are focused much more on getting others the credit than they are on getting credit themselves.
This, I believe, is essential for a great leader.
They want others to win more than they want themselves to win. They see it as their task to equip and inspire those around them.
2. Great leaders receive as much criticism as praise.
From the outside looking in, you might not think this is the case. It can be easy to feel jealous of a leader who writes a book or leads a church because he or she is receiving all kinds of praise for their hard work and creative genius. But you have to know that, behind the scenes, leaders receive almost as much criticism as praise.
It makes me think of the phrase, “where there is smoke, there’s fire.” I can almost guarantee the same is true here: where there is praise, there is criticism.
When people feel strongly about something in one direction (“I love your new book. It completely changed my life. My marriage wouldn’t have survived without it.”) there are bound to be people who feel strongly in the opposite direction (“Your book was full of arrogance and ignorance. I wish you wouldn’t have written it. What a waste of paper.”)
Leaders have to learn to deal with both praise and criticism—each of which can inspire arrogance or humility, depending on how they are handled.
3. Great leaders don’t always feel ready.
When God calls a leader to do something, the leader responds—regardless of if he or she feels equipped or ready. You’ve heard it said, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” Do you believe this? Do you believe it enough to step out in faith and be a leader, even when you don’t feel ready?
Some of the best leaders I’ve known in my life are willing to act before they feel totally prepared, before they know exactly where they’re going.
Their faith in God far exceeds their faith in themselves.
4. Great leaders are likeable (even when people hate them).
This might seem like an oxymoron, but let me explain. Great leaders always act like likeable people, even when people hate them. In other words, even when people criticize them or their leadership skills, they are still generous people, they still celebrate with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who are mourning.
They still respond to hatred with love.
In fact, this might be one of the most difficult roles of a leader—to lead even those who are reluctant or angry, to lead those who are bitter or mean. The leader loves and cares to lead these people as much as the ones who willingly follow. It’s not easy, but it’s the role of a leader.
photo credit: WilliamMarlow