Richard Maples | 11/29/2016
In October, I had an awesome opportunity to speak at the University of Houston. I spoke as part of the Dean’s Leadership Series, where I was privileged to engage with a group of future leaders. I was asked to answer this question: What makes a good leader? I emphasized that my point of view is based on my own experiences; I have been led by some great leaders and semi-led by some not-so-good leaders. So, digging in…
There is no such thing as a natural born leader. Instead, those who are willing can develop into leaders through nurturing – not because of nature. While we cannot change our DNA (nature), we can effectively nurture our leadership skills. In your life, you can identify leaders by simply looking around and observing who is good and who is not. You want to emulate those who are great and avoid the practices of those who are ineffective.
It’s important to remember that responsibility breeds responsibility. By demonstrating you are capable, you are often given more opportunities. Leaders are not chosen; rather, they are awarded or recognized for their leadership and then placed into a role. Early on in my career, I realized that most promotions happen long before the job is posted. Organizations look for those who can lead from any position, regardless of role.
In life, people naturally gravitate toward those who they trust and who put trust in them; the same applies to leaders. I prefer to lead from a servant leadership position. This means I offer my trust, I have confidence in my team (rather than over-managing), and then I provide support by asking how I can be of help. It may be easier to lead by delegation, but it is much more effective to be a servant leader. Teams often rebel when over-managed and thrive when supported.
By leading with confidence, your team will become confident in you while gaining confidence as a group. Confidence stems from a firm foundation of values and not from situational knowledge. A good leader may not have any knowledge of the situation yet still knows how to lead. As an example, I have included my values, which serve as my own litmus test:
• Faith based on forgiveness. If you cannot forgive, you cannot be an effective leader; you will lose focus, lose inclusiveness, and lose your example. Forgive others for mistakes and for less-than-desirable outcomes.
• Family and friends first. By putting family first and acting as a true friend to others, you will naturally gain their respect.
• Financial frugality. Financially, I believe you should save 10%, give 10% to charity, and live on the other 80%. By adopting this model, you are always supporting others, demonstrating the qualities of a servant leader.
• Fundamentals followed. Stay relevant and progressive in all things that you do. With that in mind, know the difference between what is fundamental and what is fading. Make sure your fundamentals maintain priority as you sprinkle in new ways of thinking.
• Philanthropy (pronounced with an F). Be a cheerful giver of all things, including your attention and time. We have an obligation of being good stewards in our communities.
Being a leader is hard yet rewarding. I am confident that I fail at leadership every day, and I am sure someone reading this can testify! However, through my own self-awareness, I continue to push myself to develop and execute.
What does it take to be a leader?
• To be a leader, you must be vulnerable.
• To be a leader, you must take accountability instead of credit.
• To be a leader, you must be an example.
• To be a leader, you must understand being wrong can be right.
• To be a leader, you must inspire others.
• To be a leader, you must have humility.
• To be a leader, you must believe in yourself.
With some nurturing, we are all leaders.