Leadership – from the ground, up.

Workplace harmony is greatly enhanced by having more people act like leaders. But to ensure that happens will require leadership.

Most often, business owners state that the greatest obstacles to growth and improvement are those around people. People not doing as expected – especially in the absence of the manager; people not acting in the best interests of the business; people not providing great service; people not being team players; people being too slow. The list is endless.

It serves little purpose to attempt to catalogue all the attributes of good leaders here, as it would be too long and it would create unnecessary debate. The following five qualities come from Kouzes and Posner’s research completed for their book “The Leadership Challenge” accepted by many as a leadership standard:

  • Honest
  • Visionary
  • Competent
  • Inspiring
  • Intelligent.

Other researcher-authors would add to the list. Jim Collins would add “Humility” and Tom Peters, the “Willingness to Listen” and “Enthusiasm”, while Jack Welch would add the “talent to Execute”.

The list is not right, wrong or complete. However, there is no dispute that these (and other) attributes are not merely those required from the leader of the organisation, but are those required to be demonstrated by everyone within it. “Leadership is not a title, it is a way of behaving.”

Servant leadership is a name given to this model, where people from the ground up are recruited for, and trained in, adopting leadership skills.

One of the foremost proponents of servant leadership is David Marquet, who authored “Turn the Ship Around” and his website is well worth the visit. Furthermore, his training tools are inexpensive, but effective. (I have witnessed those tools in practise within a client’s business and seen the benefits in how people respond to their use.)

Tom Peters uses other terminology in proposing the development of people and he suggests that it starts with a requirement at the top level to understand the benefits of strategic listening. This involves learning the art of asking the right questions and delving deeper into situations to unearth what is really happening with people and how they’re working together.

Actually, if you get to the core of what’s being said, leadership is not a lot more than being respectful, asking pertinent questions and providing people with the autonomy to act on well-founded beliefs and assumptions.

As I have attempted to demonstrate, there is an abundance of options available for assistance on this topic. However, if the development of leadership attributes is going to be a part of business training, this decision needs to start at the top.

And that will require leadership…..

Leadership starts in the mirror

Does Leadership start in the mirror?


Is the greatest attribute of leadership, humanity?

And that of entrepreneurship, open-mindedness?

And if so, is that which binds the two, self-awareness?


By any definition, humanity has to do with compassion and an intense – even intrinsic – interest in others. And many of the attributes of leadership have humanity as a foundation. Indeed, it would be difficult to describe leadership without humanity.

A study of the exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton (some would have him as the greatest leader ever) shows his skills as including compassion, responsibility for others, sharing a vision, learning from one’s own mistakes as well as those of others and respect. He sought to surround himself with people with skills other than his own.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner have carried out research as background for their seminal “The Leadership Challenge” now in its 5th Edition. Over 24 years they have researched the 20 most important characteristics expected of admired leaders. Included among those 20 are: honesty, broad-minded, fair-minded, dependable, supportive, co-operative, caring and loyal, all of which have humanity as a basis.

Other characteristics include forward-looking, inspiring, determined, courageous and ambitious which are all strong clues as to the degree to which the leader is entrepreneurial. Open-mindedness – which, of course, is closely linked to these characteristics – is a natural for a successful entrepreneur. Without it, new ideas, concepts, markets and potential would never be envisioned.

For an entrepreneur to ensure they place themselves in the best position to optimise on their abilities to see opportunities where others do not, a hefty dose of leadership is greatly beneficial to their cause. Perhaps the ideal way to gain the required leadership attributes is via self-awareness. How are my actions and words, my reactions and responses seen by those I need to bring my ideas to reality?

It is for this reason that US management guru said “leaders cannot afford to have a bad day!” By not being self-aware, they give consent for all others in the organisation carte-blanche to respond to negative scenarios in the same way. On the other hand, taking the time to develop self-awareness also provides time to consider how to behave in a way that demonstrates the required leadership attributes.

So, my contention is that it all starts in the mirror. Taking the time to reflect on how personal behaviour affects other people, is the first step in learning the art of leadership that will be required to develop ideas to their full potential.

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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