John Coltrane, the American jazz saxophonist and composer, once said that to be a better artist you have to be a better person. He could have been talking about leadership. We understand that leadership is too important to be diminished to techniques or titles. Leadership is about the character and integrity of a person. It’s about presence, not position. It’s about being, first and foremost, a good person.
I don’t think enough is said about what it takes to develop that presence, what it means to be a good person first before you can be a good leader.
Here are some of my thoughts about what it means to be a good person and what it takes to get there.
Humility. Humility is a true evaluation of conditions as they are; a willingness to face facts. One fact of leadership is that while you might get promoted to being a boss, you don’t get promoted to being a leader. You aren’t a leader until someone declares you one. You have to earn it. And you start to earn it by being willing to face the reality of how people perceive you.
Honesty. Being a good person doesn’t mean being perfect or trying to make the impression that you have it all together. It means that you are willing to see your blind spots, willing to see how your actions impact others, and have the courage to make the necessary changes.
Accountability. Accountability is the ability to be counted on. It means showing up. It means never making a promise you don’t intend to keep. It means deciding, once and for all, that all blame is a waste of time and that complaining is a defense against the courage to act.
Caring. Caring is everything. People will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care. And they won’t give you room for error if they know you don’t care. You can’t fake caring. It goes back to honesty.