The mark of a leader

I’ll begin with a scenario. Imagine yourself leading a group of ten soldiers into combat. You are charged with setting the objective, securing the required tools to get the job done, and making sure all of your soldiers are equipped and ready to fight. Now, you have done all this. Your team is ready to fight. In the first few minutes of combat, you are wounded and unable to continue leading. What happens next? Did you put a plan into place in expectation of such an occurrence? Will your team continue the fight as you taught them or will they cut and run because you are suddenly out of the picture?

OK, so most of us will never lead men into an armed conflict. The same principle is true for any group you may have charge over however. What would happen to your team if you were out of the picture? I submit to you that, as a leader, you must make certain that your group knows what you want to accomplish and be able to function without you. Whether you resign, get sick, or otherwise remove yourself from direct interaction with your people, they need to know and fully understand the group goals and how they are to be accomplished. You MUST give them the freedom to act in your absence. To do that, they must know the requirements of the group and (really important here) they must know you have confidence in them to make and execute decisions in your absence, regardless of how that absence occurred.  Anything less than this is a failure of leadership.

I have seen enough groups with leadership that considers itself the only able decision maker. The people in the group do not know or have a vested interest in where the team is going. It functions only when leadership is there and making all the decisions. Then there is the leader that has done all he knows to do to establish the tempo and direction of the group. He has done a reasonably good job. Upon his departure, the group dynamic changes. They no longer function and move forward as leadership has taught them. People drop off the team or move in different directions. This too, is a failure of leadership. This leader has failed to prepare his team to function without him. He has not adequately prepared his team to move forward and continue to build on previous success regardless of his presence or lack thereof.

POINT: The real test of a leader is the ability to prepare his team to function, indeed, to excel, regardless of whether he is present or not.