The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow by Mark Miller. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 168 pages. 2013.
This book is written by Mark Miller, currently Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick Fil-A. I have read one of his previous books The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do with Ken Blanchard. The introduction was written by Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite authors. Lencioni writes:
· But maybe it’s not something new that we need. Maybe we only need to take a longer, harder look at what we already know but have failed to grasp—the simple but painful truth that if your heart is not right, no one cares about your leadership skills.
· For those who have the courage and the character to embrace the radical nature of heart-based leadership, the rewards are great. But those rewards are not always tangible nor are they guaranteed.
The book is written like a Blanchard or Lencioni book, as a business fable. In it Miller describes the five unique character traits exhibited by exceptional leaders and how to cultivate them. I highlighted a number of passages in this short book and would like to share some of them with you below:
· If you want to predict people’s ultimate success as leaders, evaluate not their skills but their leadership character.
· This book is about identifying and developing leadership character. When these traits are evident—and a leader possesses the requisite leadership skills—you find people eager to follow.
· This book is intended to help leaders and aspiring leaders strengthen their leadership character, and, as a consequence, position themselves for greater opportunity, influence, and impact.
· You can lead, with or without, a title. If you wait until you get a title, you could wait forever.
· (Think of an iceberg) The part above the water represents leadership skills. The part below represents leadership character. The balance of the iceberg, the part under the water, represents leadership character. Ninety percent of our success as leaders will be determined by what’s below the waterline. It’s our leadership character that ultimately drives what we do, and why. It is a true reflection of who we really are as human beings.
· The difference is your motivation—your character—your heart. What’s below the waterline colors everything we do as a leader.
· Leadership character is the primary driver of your success as a leader.
· They are important, but the lack of skills is not what derails most leaders—skills are too easy to learn. It is ultimately leadership character that determines our opportunity for influence and impact.
· If you don’t demonstrate leadership character, your skills and your results will be discounted, if not dismissed.
· The most important element of leadership character is “Think others first”.
· Servant leadership is an approach contrary to conventional leadership in which the leader’s focus is on himself and what he can accomplish and achieve. Rather, the focus is on those being served. Servant leaders do many of the same things other leaders do—cast vision, build teams, allocate resources, and so on. The big difference is their orientation and their motivation; these make all the difference in the world. They possess an others-first mindset. The servant leader constantly works to help others win.
· Servant leadership works for many reasons: First, it focuses on others—specifically, those you desire to lead. Your ever-present question is not what can you do for yourself; rather, it is how can you serve them? When decisions are made, you consider the organization and your people before you weigh the personal consequences. “Servant leadership also works because it honors people—being a servant leader acknowledges the different roles, responsibilities, and strengths of people. It is not about who’s in charge. It’s about who is responsible for what, and how can I, as the leader, help people be successful?
· Another reason it works so well is servant leadership builds trust—we trust leaders whose motives are others-centered. Candor, feedback, encouragement, and even directives feel different when trust is present. When our leaders serve, we trust them more. Trust is also a key ingredient in loyalty and retention. The servant leader constantly works to help others win. “Next, it raises engagement—there is clearly an inspirational component at play when we see our leaders serve on our behalf. It energizes us as followers. When you and I believe that our leaders are for us and that they want to serve us, we want to serve them and the organizations they lead. “And finally, leadership always reveals the heart of the leader—even when what is exposed is not pretty. If it is a heart focused on serving together to accomplish a common goal, it motivates people to do their best work. The sense that we’re doing this together makes servant leadership extremely powerful.
· I intentionally cultivate relationships with servant leaders. I believe we do become like those we associate with.
· If you go through life looking for ways to serve others, you’ll be focused on others. That’s what think others first is all about. It’s about getting the focus off ourselves. Serving leaders don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less.
· Develop a think others first mindset. It will change you more than you can imagine. It will soften your heart. You will be a better leader and a better person. The ability to think others first is the foundation of leadership character. Don’t miss it.
· Without leadership character, no one cares about your skills.
· Don’t confuse opportunity with leadership. Others control many of our opportunities, so that shouldn’t be our concern. We control our readiness.
· Many people in the world see events as they are; leaders are different in that they see things that could be. And the future they see is always a better version of the present. We believe we can make a difference; we think we can make the world, or at least our part of it, better. Leaders are generally more optimistic than nonleaders.
· First, believe in your ability to create the future. That’s what leaders do—that is our job. Understand reality but never be imprisoned by it. Reality is a moment in time. The future has not yet been written—it is written by leaders.
· Leaders respond with courage. When faced with a challenging or difficult situation, the best leaders most often respond with courage; less mature leaders, or nonleaders often choose another path—a path with less risk, less conflict, and less personal discomfort.
· If you wait, you’re often too late and then you’ve effectively given your leadership away at that point. Leaders usually don’t wait—they initiate. This is the courageous response; this is the leadership response.
· Leaders usually don’t wait— they initiate. Dr. Henry Cloud says leaders get what they create and what they allow.
· Leaders respond with courage when they: Articulate the vision for the future. Build relationships with challenging people. Challenge people to grow and change.
· Mend broken relationships. Confront difficult problems. Make hard or unpopular decisions.
· Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation. They are, however, cumulative.
· To respond with courage, and the initiative it demonstrates, is one of the marks of great leaders. Their willingness to respond with courage, time and time again, makes leaders different from followers.
· If we’re leading well, we’re driving change. The unfortunate by-product is almost always some unhappy people.
· Leadership character, like other character traits, once established, is hard to hide. Someone once defined character as who you are when no one is looking. It’s not what you do as much as it is who you are—or are becoming.
· Leadership character, like other character traits, once established, is hard to hide.
· The best leaders hunger for wisdom. Decision-making is a skill. Wisdom is a leadership character trait; wisdom informs our decisions. They’re different, but there is clearly a synergistic relationship.
· You need to think of your quest for wisdom as a hunger that will never be satiated.
· Continue to be intentional about learning. If you persist, you’ll be a better, wiser leader.
· A hunger for wisdom fueled by a commitment to lifelong learning will equip you for whatever lies ahead.
· A title doesn’t make someone a leader—and the absence of a title shouldn’t keep someone from leading.
· Leadership is a privilege, but it is not free—it comes at a price.
· It’s about ownership. Ownership in this context is about a leader’s willingness to assume responsibility for his or her actions and the actions of those they lead. It is about being accountable for actions and outcomes—yours and others.
· To blame others is not the path leaders take. Leaders accept responsibility, in part, because they are sold out to the vision. It matters more than they do.
· The best leaders don’t blame others. They own their actions and their outcomes.
· Change the way we see people and the work Before you know it, we’ll change, and we really will feel like we own the outcomes. Then it will be very natural for us to accept responsibility.
· Every time you experience an outcome that doesn’t meet your expectations, look in the mirror and ask yourself how you contributed to that failure. Ask yourself what you’ll need to do differently in the future to get a different result. Identify lessons from every failure—personal, team, or organizational. A great question to ask is, ‘What did I do, or fail to do, that contributed to this outcome?’
· When things do go well you don’t need to accept responsibility, you want to give praise.
· Leadership character is a matter of the heart. If you do all the things we’ve talked about, it still won’t matter if your heart doesn’t change.
· Leadership is not about what you do nearly as much as it’s about who you are becoming—the heart of leadership is a matter of the heart.
· Are we a serving leader or a self-serving leader?
· One, without leadership character, no one cares about your skills. “Second, there are five core traits that together constitute leadership character. They represent the HEART of leadership: Hunger for Wisdom Expect the Best Accept Responsibility Respond with Courage Think Others First “And third, and thankfully, leadership character can be formed and transformed.
The book concludes with a helpful “The Heart of Leadership Self-Assessment” Also, check out Miller’s website at www.greatleadersserve.org.