I believe in strong leadership—but always with two corollaries, accountable leadership and strong leadership at all levels.
Accountable Leadership - All leaders should be accountable to someone or to some appropriate group. Even the President of the United States is accountable to the American electorate.
Unaccountable leaders too often fall victim to their own humanity. They can be captured by arrogance, which eventually, almost inevitably, leads to upheaval in their professional and perhaps personal lives.
On the other hand, good, effective leaders don’t mind being accountable to people with the right values. Being comfortable with accountability is a sign of competence and maturity in a leader.
Strong leaders need help. None of us is as smart as all of us. No leader can do it all and will fail if he or she tries. Weak leaders don’t understand this. But it’s always a precursor to trouble when leaders surround themselves with Yes-Men or Women whose loyalty supersedes their conscience, ethics, and compassion, thus their ability to truly help the leader and the organization. Strong leaders need to appoint people around them who are people with character.
Strong leaders who’re confident in their talent and assignment aren’t "threatened." Strong board members or directors, for example, do not bother them. Strong leaders don’t want directors who check their brains and their backbones at the boardroom door. Strong leaders with the right values and perspective want strong leaders around them, including people to whom they report, people who may be hard to please but for the right reasons like excellence, fidelity to the organizational mission, integrity.
Accountability is something God built into the fabric of human life, for he knew that sin would otherwise destroy us. I’ve always admired Charles Colson, whose organization, Prison Fellowship, exists because of him. He was not just appointed as an executive but was the founder of this organization. Yet he wisely created a board and voluntarily submitted himself to this board, allowing the board to establish policy and act as advisor. Such humility (Colson learned his humility the hard way after Watergate) protects both the leader and the organization.
Strong Leadership At All Levels - I also believe organizations are best served when strong leaders exist at all levels of the organization. Why? Because the stronger the links of the chain the stronger the chain. If leaders make things happen it’s logical to conclude that leaders working in a coordinated effort at all levels of the organization can make even more things happen.
Strong leaders at all levels also help balance the organization. Strong leaders at the top and in the leadership team strengthen the organization.
The fact that strong leaders exist on a board and strong leaders exist within the personnel hierarchy of an organization allows the person in the top executive position to be a strong leader. If strong leaders exist on the board, the top executive enjoys the liberty of accountability. If strong leaders exist within the organization, the top executive may exercise strong leadership without overpowering his or her co-workers.
Strong leaders don’t have to be narcissistic autocrats. Such people craft their own downfall.
Strong leaders who know and trust God, who gave them their talent in the first place, can get things done. They’re strong in leadership not for self-aggrandizement but to serve the Lord and others.
Excerpted from “Be One of God’s Unlikely Leaders—Live With Focus, Get Things Done,” my book in development.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.