It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about business, politics, sports, charities, social clubs, or just about any other area where human beings come together to accomplish something. The most important determining factor in an organization’s success is the quality of its leadership.
What makes a strong leader? Is it the one with the loudest voice? The guy who makes the best speeches? The one who puts in the most hours? Is it the dude ordering people around the most?
Of course, it’s none of these.
The best leaders focus on the four most important letters in leadership: L-O-V-E
L—Listen and Learn. Strong leaders are curious. They never stop asking questions. They have two ears and one mouth so they can listen twice as much as they talk. A strong leader listens to employees, customers, competitors, “the market,” and any other source of information available. A true leader is constantly learning, and knows he doesn’t have all the answers.
O—Observe and Organize. Leaders make time to observe what’s really happening. They don’t rely solely on the stories people tell. They measure the reality. Leaders organize for success. They delegate responsibility and authority to others within their organization. They define processes that multiply their efforts, and the efforts of those they lead. Ronald Reagan coined the phrase, “trust, but verify,” and strong leaders live by this maxim to ensure their organization is as efficient and scalable as possible.
V—Visualize. Where are we going? How will we get there? These are the two biggest questions leaders face. The leader’s ability to visualize the future, define and articulate the mission, and steer toward success will make or break their organization. Look too far into the future, and they may fail to see the short-term obstacles and challenges. Look too closely at the short-term obstacles, and they may steer their organization off-course and miss its ultimate objective. Visualization isn’t an independent activity. The strong leader makes time to help others take emotional ownership of the vision and connect it to what they do each day.
E—Encourage and Execute. Ultimately, success is all about execution. A strong leader knows that nothing happens without the people he’s leading. Encouraging others to give their maximum effort in pursuit of the organization’s vision and goals is the primary role of the leader. Encouragement comes from the leader’s words and actions. People will watch and listen to see if their leader’s values and moral compass are something they can support. They will learn quickly whether their leader cares about their well-being, as well as that of the organization. A strong leader is sincere in defining what it will take to succeed, and excels at encouraging their team to make it a reality.
It’s no coincidence that these letters spell out love. It’s the attitude a strong leader brings to their work each and every day.
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