The Heart of True Leadership

Our delightful colleague Jonathan Morris kicks off another 3-day supervisory training class tomorrow. A class of Jonathan’s design, the class is titled The Heart of True Leadership and has this preface to the listing of course content areas:

“A supervisor is a leader. It takes sacrifice, commitment, and selflessness to lead effectively. Leaders understand what gives a sense of self-worth to themselves and the people they lead. Leaders use this understanding to create and maintain effective relationships, reduce conflict, transfer knowledge and build more productive teams.”

Fortunately, most of us have encountered some gifted and inspiring leaders in our lives and we’re better people for it.

Unfortunately, most of us have also encountered some leaders who were leaders only in the title of their position, whose behavior did not suggest an understanding of the responsibility to others that comes with it and was anything but inspiring.

The importance of strong, ethical leadership can become most evident when it’s lacking. The BP oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico is only the most recent example of this–though it is certainly among the more stunning examples.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School recently offered a thoughtful reflection on BP’s CEO and what she calls the failure of leadership accountability in the disaster. It’s a useful example of what leadership isn’t. As Kanter notes:

“The public doesn’t expect miracles. Stuff happens. But it’s reasonable for stakeholders to expect that every possible step will be taken to prevent the stuff from happening in the first place and then to keep it from get out of control if it does. When stuff happens, a true leader should apologize quickly and take responsibility.” Click here to read more.

When have you experienced the benefit of a leader owning up to a situation that left everyone better off? Share your thoughts on what the heart of true leadership looks like in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “The Heart of True Leadership”

  1. nicolet

    Just last month something happened in our department that affected each employee in the entire organization. I was impressed by the way many people quickly stepped up to address the situation, but most notable to me was the email that went out from my director shouldering the blame, apologizing on behalf of the department, and outlining the next steps to the solution (even though he had nothing to do with what had happened). I truly believe his email contributed in part to why fellow employees responded empathetically to the unfortunate situation, instead of taking their frustrations out on all of us.

  2. JenniferM

    Often the best leaders are those who lead by example in attitude and actions. Working with their staff instead of ruling over them.

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