I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a group of 15 talented up-and-coming leaders as they graduated from Leadership Nabholz, our internal leadership development program. After speaking to them, I was asked to share some more of my thoughts on leadership, and since our marketing folks have been hounding me to write blog articles — here we go!
As I explained to the group of graduates, the phrase “over the top” came about during World War I. Before leaving the trenches to launch an attack, soldiers had to muster up the courage to go “over the top.” However, their leader, a general or commander, was considered too valuable to the mission and was not allowed to go with his team. Instead, he stayed behind while his soldiers went ahead on his command.
Now, imagine using that same leadership strategy in the business world. While it may be appropriate on the battlefield, it just won’t fly in the boardroom. It’s important that we all have the drive to go over the top, but as a business leader you better have the courage to go first. Simply put, in business you can’t lead from behind.
The second piece of advice I shared with the class was this: Know your role as a leader in both the good times and the bad times. When times are tough, a leader should be very visible. A good leader should be out front, speaking with and listening to employees, and providing encouragement and support during the bad times. When times are good, a good leader should be invisible. A good leader should stay out of the limelight, give the praise to someone else, and let others be celebrated for their hard work and accomplishments.
Finally, leadership in business is never about titles or positions. Businesses need leadership at all levels of the organization. In construction it certainly takes great leaders at all levels to complete a project with high quality, safety, and customer satisfaction. Great leadership is more about the passion, vision and influence of the individual. Passion and vision come from within and are what drive you to succeed. Influence, on the other hand, is based on the trust that others have in you and the relationships that you build. You can’t do it alone. To achieve your passion and vision, you will need alliances, and the most successful alliances are those gained through influence based on trust—not your title or position.
Every leader is different — we all have our own personalities and unique leadership styles—but when I think about the traits that all great leaders should possess, these five always make my list: Courage, Humility, Passion, Vision and Influence.