All employees crave leadership and there are all kinds of leaders. Over the course of a lifetime, people will experience authoritarian leaders, servant leaders, persuasive leaders, and even costumed leaders. Costumed leaders are those in an executive management role who think they are leading, but really lack the main characteristics or tools to be an effective leader. They are disguised by authority, title, role, and position.
Costumed leaders experience short-term success. They surround themselves with talented people. They gain trust and loyalty from employees. Often times, costumed leaders are so good at wearing their disguise they develop a “family” culture within the work environment. This often blurs the lines between employee, friend, and actual family. That’s why it’s difficult for costumed leaders to identify the institutional risks resulting from this leadership approach. Eventually, a problem or crisis arises and the costume begins to tear, the makeup starts to run, and the wig becomes disheveled.
Costumed leaders truly believe they are good “bosses.” They care for their employees, customers, and business, but because they lack key leadership abilities, the very things they care about begin to suffer. Any organization that lacks direction and vision will soon be out of business. The costumed leader mistakes caring for leadership. Effective leadership demonstrates caring, but caring can never replace the need for leadership.
To be an effective leader at least five characteristics need to be present.
An effective leader…
- Speaks the truth with love. You earn more respect by being honest when that honesty is driven by wanting the best for the other person and the organization overall.
- Exhibits self-awareness. Just because you are in a position of leadership does not mean you need to have all the answers. Leadership requires listening to an issue and seeking a solution in consultation with other team members or colleagues. It’s important for leaders to be authentic and show their strengths, but more importantly to show their openness and commitment to utilizing and leading through the strengths of others.
- Courageously shares a vision. Believe it or not, not every employee buys what you do when they are hired. Sometimes, buy-in is developed when employees become involved and fully engaged in the work they were hired to do. A consistent and courageously communicated vision can provide depth of direction to even the most uninterested employee. This is no easy task and often requires going against popular opinion and results in the realization that the organizational culture needs to be changed.
- Unapologetically seeks total participation. When an institution’s culture becomes more like “family” than “business,” delegation becomes difficult and participation becomes harder to obtain. An effective leader can communicate the “why” which motivates employees to want to participate. People are far more productive when they believe in the “why” of what they are doing instead of just completing the “what” in their daily tasks.
- Acknowledges the dream in dreamers. This is probably one of the most important leadership characteristics for an organization. A leader needs to be able to identify and nurture dreamers. Dreamers are not to be feared, but to be embraced because they are the individuals who not only think about what could be, but also contribute to the solutions to achieve these lofty goals. They are the innovators who embrace change and collaboratively work together to address challenges and remove barriers.
There are, of course, so many more characteristics which could be listed, but these directly relate to the costumed leader. It’s important for every leader to be self-aware and able to analyze the type of leadership style they are exhibiting. People are capable of achieving the impossible when their dreams are validated and they are given room to grow. Because leadership can be learned, there is never a need for a disguise.
What type of leader are you?