Four Pillars of Leadership
Over the years I’ve been asked on many occasions, what is leadership? Having the privilege of working with John Alderson and building upon his lessons has fine-tuned what I believe are the Four Pillars of Leadership that are needed for successfully leading any company or organization (small or large) in any field. It could be video stores, social workers, rock musicians, or developers — I’ve worked with them all. The one thing that never changes is they’re all people, and they all want the same things: to be valued and appreciated, to know that the person they’re working for cares about them, and to work with genuine people. The four elements of this model are:
First, you need a vision — or in other words, why should people follow you? If you don’t have a vision, what do you stand for? What are you willing to not compromise on? Where are you taking this group of people? Demonstrate that they will be part of something bigger. People do not work above and beyond at Metal Toad because it will make someone rich; they do it because we’re creating something that doesn’t exist in the world today.
Next, you need to be able to communicate your vision authentically and often. If nobody knows your vision, they will not follow you. Your vision also needs to be expressed throughout the company at all levels, and in ways that are creative and engaging. This will empower others because they so clearly understand the vision/dream that they can own it as their own.
The next aspect of the model is emotional intelligence, which is where most leaders fail. By emotional intelligence, I mean keeping yourself accountable and having self-discipline. If you can’t self-manage then you will not be seen as a strong leader. Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote a great piece, "9 Habits of Highly Emotionally Intelligent People", which explains the importance of emotional intelligence and how it affects your overall ability to lead.
The last pillar is positioning, which is ensuring that smart, great people work for you. But before you can do that you need to have a vision and communicate that vision, or else nobody will want to follow you. Why would they? Think about the best people you have ever worked for — I bet they had a vision, communicated it to you and others, self-managed, and had great people working for them. You can’t fake it or skip any of the pillars because the model will reveal you if you do. But if you can be aware of all four pillars, you can move mountains and people will follow you to the end of the earth. Keep in mind that leadership is a journey, not a destination, and you will be constantly learning. But following the Four Pillars of Leadership makes it attainable.