Wednesday, September 03, 2008

5 Leadership Words

Feeling in a reflective mood, I thought I would list the most outstanding qualities of the most effective leaders I’ve ever worked with or for.

These were the 5 words that came into my head after not very long thinking about the question:


Strange how words like Hard, Decisive, Ruthless, and Disciplinarian did not come into my head. That probably says more about me than anything else.

Anyway, can you offer 5 words that describe the most effective leaders you have worked for or with?

By the way, I’m not saying I’m right. I’m just saying when I remember the best leaders I’ve known my five words Integrity, Humility, Kindness, Support and Fairness are the ones I personally would use to describe them.

Would love to have your take on this!


Mike Gardner said...

My five are the same as yours.

Trevor Gay said...

Cheers Mike - They say great minds think alike - the cheque (check)is in the post my friend :-)

Anonymous said...

Well Trevor you know mine...which I've written about extensively:

Empathic, and

Cheers mate!

Brian W

Anonymous said...

This probably will not surprise you Trevor :-) My first is Aloha, but then again, I also believe Aloha is something that everyone already has, the question is if it is "in play" or not...

I see the leader's role as being one where Aloha and other key, deliberately chosen values are expected as givens from everyone, and thus conditions (the organizational culture) provide fertile ground for those values to thrive (i.e. fertile ground for the Aloha of worthwhile work), while some meaningful vision is being pursued.

Therefore, I tend to think of leaders having very visionary, future-directed qualities, like curiosity, creativeness, resourcefulness, and the biggie, courage. I also think the best leaders are highly impatient, accepting no "yeah, but" thinking. The ones you listed are for the managers who run the show on a daily basis, well supported by their leader in kind (so to be clear, I do love your list!)

Trevor Gay said...

Brian - thanks for reminding me of your unique FACET model of leadership. You were always one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to leadership mate!

Rosa - curiosity, creativeness, resourcefulness, and courage. That is a terrific list thanks. I have met a few bosses who have the 'Yeah but' mentality - they may be ‘bosses’ but they are definitely not ‘leaders.’ Richard Branson is known in the Virgin head office as 'Dr Yes' - because he always says ‘yes’ to ideas that are brought to him! - Amen to that I say.

Anonymous said...

My five:


Great topic, Trevor!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Stacey - another great list. I think it is great how most of the words so far fall into the what is (wrongly in my opinion) often referred to as the 'soft' side of management. I sign up 100% to Tom Peters view that 'Soft is Hard'

Unknown said...

Great question, Trevor! As a fellow writer, I couldn't limit myself to just five words! Here are my five, with brief explanations for a few of them:

1) Present (as in, "you can pretend to care, but you can't pretend to be there.")

2) Encouraging (i.e. someone who recognizes it's easier to direct energy than to create it, and so they approve ideas rather than discourage them, ala Sir Richard "Dr. Yes" Branson)

3) Energetic
4) Counter-cultural
5) Hands-off (I find I thrive under the benign neglect of my superiors, and strongly resist micromanagement)

Trevor Gay said...

Great comments Dan – thanks. Like you I hated the few times I was micro- managed in my healthcare career. That is just about not trusting people and illustrates the insecurity of the manager mostly in my view.

Anonymous said...

What a terrific topic Trevor. Number one on my list is credible. This would be integrity applied as the words and actions should always match and an explanation provided when they don't/can't. Trust + time= credibility. Number two is "ego-less"...essential for building a participative culture based on trust teamwork and continuous improvement. Number three is consistent. Rules, opportunities, applied the same to each team member. Number four is coach. This is providing the tools and training to enable every team member to excel and be self sufficient and the secret to avoiding micro-management. Lastly, ADVOCATE. Always insure the folks above you in the organization are aware of the successes, effort, challenges, and opportunities of the frontline team.

Ian Sanders said...

Having just interviewed Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi (for my next book 'Juggle'); he has a refreshing take on leadership. For him - and he leads a creative organisation of over 7,000 people - leadership is about unleash and inspire rather than command or control.

I don't think we hear that enough from business leaders...!

Anonymous said...

Thinking about the 2 best bosses I've had, I realise they were not easy to work for. Not because they were ogres - far from it - but because they had high expectations of me. It was only when I realised that these expectations were in fact a compliment that I even began to appreciate how they were managing me. They were:


Anonymous said...

I have to include "passionate" in any such list. --and I don't mean false cheerleading. I mean being filled with the spirit (religious or otherwise). From that flows meaning, inspiration, and a whole host of other attributes. It's what engages people, transfers values, and makes one want to follow such a leader.

J.KANNAN said...

Dear Mr. Trevor,

After reading your posting written in a reflective mood on “5 Leadership Words”, I got into a pensive mood. These five words are precisely and pretty good. It will do lot of good for many in business as well in society if only leaders apply and follow these good five leadership words in useful action and its resultant effect, and left to me I would describe it as immensely valuable Leadership principles/qualities and note mere words.

During the course of my pondering over the subject some leadership sentences came into my thought and they are:-

Your men will be as loyal to you, as you are to them-Leaders.

Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power to a Leader

Winning is not every thing, It is the only thing for Leaders.

The easiest thing to find is fault, therefore do not find fault-If you do so you are also a part of it Leaders.

If you really want to do a thing, Leader, you will find a way; if you don’t you will find an excuse.

It is of no use to a Leader, saying “we are doing our best”- You have to succeed, Leaders, in doing what is necessary.

There are four kinds of help a leader can render to his fellow men:-

1. You may give food, clothes or money to a needy one-GOOD THING.

2. Offer education, as education helps one to open his eyes, teaches him to take care of himself, as it gives him knowledge-GREAT THING.

3. To save ones life, indeed a “Great thing”-But death may seize him at any moment.

4.Leaders, teach one how to control and direct his thought properly and rightly so that he may gain understanding or wisdom, for this will save him.-HIGHEST THING.

The first three forms of helps are unquestionably very good. But permanent help is to give people the mastering over all their powers so that they can stand on their own feet and work for their salvation.

This is what some of the things I expect out of Leaders. And I did indeed work for and with leaders bearing above caliber and qualities and ‘am indeed proud of them.


Trevor Gay said...

Dave – as always your words on leadership are inspiring to me. You have ‘been there and done it’ as a leader in the military – ‘among the muck and bullets’ as my late beloved Dad used to say. I am just thrilled we think so alike about the qualities of effective leadership.

Ian – far too many ‘alleged’ leaders still like to ‘command and control’ although it is not what it says on their tin. It really is about trusting your folks to just get on with it whilst also being there just n case. There is thin line between interference and allowing people their freedom. Must have been great to interview Kevin Roberts and good luck with your new book.

Mark – great comment about learning from our bosses and I agree with you. My very first boss was seen by most people as a bit of an ogre but he taught me more than most of my subsequent bosses. He was obsessive about detail to the point most people thought he was a pain in the rear. However with hindsight and maturity I am now able to realise how much I learned from his mentorship.

Trevor Gay said...

Dick – thanks for visiting Simplicity Blog again.

I wrote an article which became a chapter in my book. The chapter is called 'Passion with a Side Salad of Passion' so I agree with you entirely.

I suspect you would agree with me that working for or with someone who has real passion is inspiring ….. And of course to prove your point the opposite is equally true!

Trevor Gay said...

Thank you JK – your words are great – thank you for taking the time to visit Simplicity Blog.

I’m sure you have come across this from Lao Tsu (700 years before Jesus)

It just proves the greatest management gurus were around long before the 21st Century … and yet even today 2700 years later some supposed ‘leaders’ don’t get this stuff!

Go to the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build with what they have

But with the best leaders
When the work is done
The task accomplished
The people will say
“We have done this ourselves.”

Lao Tsu (700 BC)

Sriram said...

My 5 words would be:


Trevor Gay said...

Brilliant Sriram - although as stated earlier and in my book I would say 'PASSION with a Side Salad of Process' ...Having said that I fully endorse your sentiment - nothing ever gets done REALLY well well without passion!

Hope you and Sharanya are both well.

Anonymous said...

The best leaders that I have worked for embody a strong sense of Mission. They have a very strong sense of purpose in what they are working to accomplish. When I think of Mission I think of the people that embodied a set of guiding principles. People like gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, etc... I obviously did not work for them, but the leaders I admire embodied that same sense of knowing where they were going and what they wanted to accomplish. They had a mission and that mission was guided by Priciples. These principles guided them and acted as if it were a compass providing direction for the mission. I think that great leaders are those that have a strong mission or purpose and clearly defined principles that guide their actions. For instance, Gandhi's mission was social reform. His guiding principle was peaceful opposition. However, I think that the mission and guiding principles have to be backed up with a sense of justice or integrity. In other words, they must have the character to do what is right, even when they think no one is paying attention. A great leader must have wisdom. They absolutely must know their business, but more importantly they have to be wise in understanding and knowing people. They must know how to relate to people, problem solve, motivate, redirect, confront, etc.... and still move people in a positive direction, both personally and organizationally. Great leaders must possess personal power. Their followers must see them as potent in the 4 previous qualities. They have to have courage and strength to face difficult times and difficult situations. Their followers have to believe in the power to accomplish the mission in order to continue to follow in difficult times.

I believe it all starts with the mission. If you have a strong mission you will develop strong guiding principles. With strong guiding principles you will have a sense of justice and your convictions will be strong. When you are totally comitted you will take ownership and will work to gain whatever knowledge is necessary to become the best. Once you embody a sense of mission, a principled lifestyle, a senseof integrity/justice, and you are an expert in your field, this will lead to the quality of personal power. If the mission is weak or undefined the rest will be weak.

So my list would look like this:

Integrity and sense of Justice
Personal power

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Rocky - as usual your well thought through vision makes sense to me. From the mission everything flows - neat!

Anonymous said...

In building the galactic empire, clearly the most incredible act of leadership ever - these are the words I would use to describe the qualities of my leadership team:

o Fearless
o Trustworthy (transparent, etc...)
o Intense
o Organized
o Knowledgeable of the Force

Trevor Gay said...

Thank you Darth - may the force be with you :-)

Marilyn Jess said...

Hi Trevor,

Not sure if anyone has touched on this, so here goes. This goes beyond the 5 words.

The best boss I ever had did a few things supremely well. She had the vision to know what you were capable of, before you ever recognized it, but she never brow beat you into doing it.

Which meant you expected more out of yourself, because you could sense she did also. So people performed well.

She never held folk back--when it was time to move on, she encouraged people to grow beyond the confines of our workplace. I'm eternally grateful for her leadership.

Trevor Gay said...

That’s a great observation Marilyn.

In my leadership research when I interviewed 20 doctors about leadership many of them talked about how their mentors and role models had stretched them to go beyond what they thought they were capable of as young medical students.

I remember achievements in my career where I exceeded my own expectation of what I was capable of and it was usually because I didn’t want to let my boss down. I was fortunate enough to have such bosses mainly, with one or two notable exceptions. These exceptions were people who did not give me that same motivation to succeed and on those occasions the motivation was totally from within me.

The best leaders in my experience are supportive and kind and want to see their ‘followers’ achieve things and take the credit for those things. The best leaders always give the credit to the follower and the poor leaders take the credit for themselves.

Sounds like you had a great boss there!

Anonymous said...

My 5 words are;


Nice to have something to aim to!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Anonymous - I love those 5!!

Alexander Tiedemann said...

These five words came to my mind after thinking about leadership:


I know leaders who are well-educated on things that a leader should really know. They're also dynamic because they actively lead their team members with so many approaches! Speaking of approach, they're also approachable because they make friends with everyone in the team. It's good to make relationship ties in order to be more comfortable in leading and following. Of course, they're happy and proud of what they're doing!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks so much Alexander - I love your 5 words and the rationale behind them - Best wishes Trevor

Anonymous said...

To be a good leader we should own some leadership traits like: communication, integrity, self-confidence, capacity of taking the best decisions in order to achieve the company's goals.
If we want to learn more about this subject, we can follow a Toronto management training seminar.

Unknown said...

and Prompt.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Kirk - appreciated

Alex ken said...

Regular, two-way communication with various aspects of the school community is also a very rewarding set of skills for the effective educational leader.

Leadership in the UK