These are qualities that can, to quite a large extent be taught to those with the correct attitude.
Responsibility is really the first and underlying quality – together with integrity. Anyone who wants or demands authority and is not prepared to accept the attendant responsibility is not fit to lead.
Many people do not appreciate that responsibility is a two-way street. A less senior person might be responsible to their superiors but their superiors have an equal and possibly more important responsibility for and to their employees or juniors.
In the military the responsibility is to see that men are prepared through training – both physical and in the area of skills in arms and in their specialties. Officers need to ensure that their men are prepared mentally and they need to learn to trust those men to carry out their duties.
The leader earns the men’s trust by showing that he trusts them and takes seriously his responsibility for them, at the same time being firm and impartial in matters of discipline and adherence to the army’s rules.
The men under the command of the officer or NCO learn to respect not only those qualities of fairness and firmness but also the person – not just the authority of the rank or position.
The good leader, already granted the authority with his rank or position, has taken the time to earn the respect of those under his command without throwing his weight around or allowing anyone else to do so. He does not have to demand the men’s obedience or respect. The loyalty he has shown to those men has in its turn, earned their loyalty. They will behave and carry out their assigned work responsibly and be accountable for their performance. They will be a team.
A leader displays loyalty to staff in several ways. He ensures that they know and understand what is required of them. When they make a mistake he takes the time to establish what happened and why. He does not allow others to attack his people. He will stop such attacks and will sort out matters of discipline, training or other problems, internally.
If censure is required, he will ensure that it is administered firmly and fairly and he will do it himself. He will not abdicate this unpleasant task nor will he allow his superiors or peers to attack and demean his staff or censure them even if it is deserved. He will stop such moves and be responsible for sorting out the problem and, if needed, report his resolution of the problem to his own superiors. He will be RESPONSIBLE.
He does not allow his staff to be embarrassed in front of their peers, their seniors nor, and most importantly, in front of any junior staff.
The leader is firstly an individual who accepts authority knowing that with it goes great responsibility. Learning to handle all those things and thriving in a supportive environment some people become good supervisors and managers. Some among them become leaders and some become really good leaders.
All these things only happen in an environment that is conducive to such a culture. In order to function efficiently the military must have a responsible leadership culture. It is why they train and train and re-train their members. Those that have the aptitude will work their way up the ladder. Some individuals will find a level that suits their abilities while others will remain among the rank and file. Systems are not infallible and from time to time talent will be overlooked and fall through the cracks but, for the most part, it is a system that works.
The military systems are built on training and excellence but the driving force is not commercial. Rather it is a strange mix of loyalty, camaraderie, discipline and pride – a hard to define esprit-de-corps.
Many of those in charge of large civilian/commercial enterprises are heard paying lip service to training and developing leaders. With the main driver being the bottom line it becomes easy to lose sight of the people who make it all work. How often is the phrase “Our people are our most vital asset” heard by surprised staff who would swear it was not so.
Brash, commercially successful individuals are often promoted to management positions over really competent people. Such people will frequently be insensitive to others and, when in charge, become a bully. This is tacitly allowed because of the person’s success rate. No one notices the decline in morale and performance and perceived shortcomings are simply punished.
Staff reporting to such managers may become afraid and anxious and, not wanting to lose their jobs, they scramble to please, to be seen as acquiescent and helpful. The fact that productivity slips, errors occur and inefficiencies creep in is lost in the clamour.
It is often acknowledged that the best sportsman in any particular discipline will not necessarily be the best captain, coach or manager. So it is with management and leadership.
That rather loud individual who can sell lots of anything, or fix anything or excel in many other ways, should be allowed and encouraged to follow his core competency. He should be made to realise, through discussion or even blatant flattery, that he is hugely important to the company. Emphasise that a manager and support staff are in place to help him continue his successful career. He needs to see it as removing obstacles to his success, such as the need to be in the office and being responsible for the performance and success of others when he is much better at being successful HIMSELF.
Train the people with the right skills in responsibility and the exercise of authority. There is always a need for individuals with these competencies. The good ones will thrive and become supervisors, managers and leaders according to their abilities.
A person who is willing to accept responsibility and at the same time behave with integrity is a rare person indeed and all too often is not recognised by the very people who need them – business bosses. Business LEADERS however will recognise the need and ensure such people are not only hired but supported and encouraged in every way.
Responsible people take things seriously and tend not to let others down. They are thorough and hard-working and usually bright and intelligent. Frequently these people are creative and love to contribute but are seldom, if ever, encouraged and their voices are lost in the noise around big sales, big conferences, big ideas – and big egos.
People who WANT to be IN CHARGE and who, if promoted, take every opportunity to tell anyone who will listen how important they are should be kept under strict control and never be allowed much, if any, authority over staff. Selfishly they do not want to be responsible for anything but themselves and what is theirs which is what makes that kind of person a great salesman and marketer and even a tradesman but, more often than not, a poor manager of people.