Fundamentals of Leadership

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Dec 03, 2011

"We can get caught up in the things we have to measure and forget the things we can't measure."
Carl Colletti

Just about anyone who has leadership responsibilities is constantly searching for ways to keep on growing. I know I always am. So when the Chairman of the VFCC Board of Trustees began an address here on campus with the words, "I am speaking today on the Fundamentals of Leadership," with great expectation I reached for my pen and paper expecting to learn something new. And I was not disappointed. 

Here are the seven "Fundamentals" he shared. 

1. Direction. Leaders must have direction. They must convey a sense that they are going somewhere. Their goals must be clear. As he said, "I can't make them (leaders) lead from the inside out. I can't be their compass. I can't stir up their gifts. They must do that for themselves." 

2. Foresight. Leaders must have foresight. They must not only be moving forward; they must know where they are going, and they must know what it will take to get there. "It is necessary for the leader to cast the vision, but also be able to carry out the vision." As John Maxwell said, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." 

3. Communication. Leaders must communicate. Perhaps this is one of the most important leadership qualities. How can followers follow if leaders don't communicate? Carl described one leader he knew who led with the big idea that could be described by a message like this, "We're going to take on the lion" and then a month later he called out "We're going to take on the bear" and then a month later he cried out "We're going to take on the wolf." The people were willing to follow but they couldn't grasp any consistency in his leadership. The target kept changing and his communication confused those who were following him. 

4. Transparency. Leaders must be transparent. "We lead for the betterment of other people. When it comes to leadership, it is always about someone else." Unless a leader exudes that kind of selfless transparency, any follower will question their own commitment to follow. For leaders, it really is always about the followers. 

5. Stick-To-It-Iv-Ness. Leaders must have stick-to-it-iv-ness. Life is filled with a million reasons to detour from our leadership mission. Time, energy, resources, distractions, people and just about anything else can run us off the road of leadership. Passion for the cause will keep us going when everything calls for us to quit. To stick-to-it will always make the difference between leadership success and failure. 

6. Bounce. Leaders must have bounce. "Leadership has its own unique law of gravity. At times you may bounce high, but you can also bounce low. And there are seasons. The best leaders are the master of the comeback." These words remind me of the statement by Everett Dirksen, the statesman/senator from Illinois, who said, "I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times." Leaders must always remember that the game isn't over in the fifth inning or the third quarter. 

7. Reflection. Leaders must take time to reflect. Am I going the right direction? How can we improve? When will we reach our goal? Who is the best resource person to consult? Why does this project matter? Am I doing things which hinder those around me from being able to make their contribution? Reflection helps us prioritize between the good, better and best. Reflection empowers us to keep going in the right direction, if we are. 

The list of the Fundamentals of Leadership could go on and on. But Carl Colletti's list will surely help any of us to learn more on our leadership journey. As John Kennedy said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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