What is Leadership? By Gregg Wallick

June 18, 2010

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Leadership. It is an often-used term, but what does it really mean? Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines leadership as “…guide or conduct by going first; to guide by influence; to act as guide or director.” As my responsibilities have expanded over the years, I have had to delegate certain responsibilities that require leadership skills. On numerous occasions, I encountered a leadership shortage. This shortage has caused me to often question if leaders are born or if they are trained?

Leadership is similar to a maze. There are no easy answers. Leaders must be willing to take risks, willing to take the blame, and willing to accept mistakes as part of the learning process. Leaders understand the rewards of hard work; they love to make a difference and are always looking for ways to innovate.

Leaders understand the concept of “paying the price.” I was first introduced to this principle at the age of 11 by Coach Johnson. He sat the team down after our first loss and explained the concept of consequences. I doubt his words would have penetrated our little ears with such meaning if we had not been so disappointed. Real leaders understand the concept of paying the price because they have made a few poor choices and felt the pain of not being totally prepared. This understanding is a fundamental requirement for leadership.

Leaders work smart and hard. They realize one is never more exposed to a down turn than when one is on top. To a leader, the concept of a 40-hour work week does not exist. Leaders look for ways to create a 40-hour day. They have a burning fire inside them that will not quit. It is a constant urge to overcome adversity and reach the mountaintop. Leaders love adventure and seldom accept the status quo. They are professional change agents who always strive to overcome the next challenge.

Leaders have great communication skills, which does not necessarily mean they must be good public speakers. Rather leaders have the ability to relate to a person on whatever level he or she operates. Leaders have what I call “communication range,” the ability to get their message across to an entire range of people. Without effective communication skills, leaders will never achieve their maximum potential. Leaders must be able to get the message across if they ever to persuade others to follow them.

Recently I read Gung Ho by Ken Blanchard, author of the celebrated book, The One Minute Manager. In Gung Ho, Blanchard outlines the job of a leader:

  1. Let people know why their work is worthwhile.
  2. Decide where you are going.
  3. Make sure everyone on the team shares the goal.
  4. Help set the group’s values.
  5. Procure resources.
  6. Hold rule makers in check.
  7. Secure the support you need both inside and out.
  8. Keep an eye on the future to ward off trouble and be ready to change direction.
  9. Celebrate achievement.

Being a leader requires one to work outside of the office. Leaders visit their employees, stay current with the trends in the marketplace, and listen. They join networking groups, read books, find a mentor, become a mentor, while remaining perpetual students who are always learning new skills.

Concerning the original question, are leaders born or are they trained? In my opinion, both perspectives are true. I believe that one is born with fire in their belly and the desire for adventure. However, a person can never become an effective leader until he or she polishes skills, such as trust, enthusiasm, judgment, forgiveness, and courage. By combining these traits, one can become a leader. Once the position is attained, leaders never sit still again.

Gregg Wallick is the president and CEO of Best Roofing and a member of Roofing Contractor’s editorial board.