“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
We often learn the best leadership traits the hard way. Trial and error, mistakes, humbling experiences, and good old-fashioned hard work can set apart the good leader from the great leader, the awe-inspiring and motivational from the dull and mundane. The key to effective leadership is the ability to connect with others on a human level.
As humans we have the ability to empower and build trust. True leadership requires the skill to do both. It means being able to build up a person while simultaneously making the tough decisions. It means being able to motivate through change as things become chaotic for everyone. It means making the hard call while protecting employees’ self-esteem and dignity. It means engendering respect while doing the right thing. It means being self-aware, self-reflective, and emotionally intelligent. It means using common sense.
This type of leadership is optimal, albeit often not an easy task because it seems sometimes that this common sense approach is not so common anymore. As work speeds up, technology advances, missions broaden, priorities change, and resources become more limited, it can become difficult to remember that common sense leadership dictates not forgetting your people along the way.
In times like these, it is easy to see programs and departments being overwhelmed and torn apart. As a result, our people end up having their confidence and motivation destroyed. However, we can change that dynamic. As leaders we have the power and influence to build up—to empower and lead through destruction to a greater day. How we choose to use our abilities is the difference. In the words of Immanuel Kant, “Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.” Humane leadership will move us in the positive direction. The key is, do not forget your people along the way. Common sense can become common again.
Beth Coleman, an instructor in Faculty Affairs and Development at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.