The growing awareness and demand for idealist principles in leadership are increasing the emphasis (in terms of leadership characteristics) on business ethics, corporate responsibility, emotional maturity, personal integrity, and what is popularly now known as the 'triple bottom line' (abbreviated to TBL or 3BL, representing 'profit, people, planet').
For many people (staff, customers, suppliers, investors, commentators, visionaries, etc) these are becoming the most significant areas of attitude/behaviour/appreciation required in modern business and organisational leaders.
3BL (triple bottom line - profit, people, planet) also provides an excellent multi-dimensional framework for explaining, developing and assessing leadership potential and capability, and also links strongly with psychology aspects if for instance psychometrics (personality testing) features in leadership selection and development methods: each of us is more naturally inclined to one or the other (profit, people, planet) by virtue of our personality, which can be referenced to Jung, Myers Briggs, Etc.
Much debate persists as to the validity of 'triple bottom line accounting', since standards and measures are some way from being clearly defined and agreed, but this does not reduce the relevance of the concept, nor the growing public awareness of it, which effectively and continuously re-shapes markets and therefore corporate behaviour. Accordingly leaders need to understand and respond to such huge attitudinal trends, whether they can be reliably accounted for or not at the moment.
Adaptability and vision - as might be demonstrated via project development scenarios or tasks - especially involving modern communications and knowledge technologies - are also critical for certain leadership roles, and provide unlimited scope for leadership development processes, methods and activities.
Cultural diversity is another topical and very relevant area requiring leadership involvement, if not mastery. Large organisations particularly must recognise that the market-place, in terms of staff, customers and suppliers, is truly global now, and leaders must be able to function and appreciate and adapt to all aspects of cultural diversification. A leaders who fails to relate culturally well and widely and openly inevitably condemns the entire organisation to adopt the same narrow focus and bias exhibited by the leader.
Bear in mind that different leadership jobs (and chairman) require different types of leaders - Churchill was fine for war but not good for peacetime re-building. There's a big difference between short-term return on investment versus long-term change. Each warrants a different type of leadership style, and actually very few leaders are able to adapt from one to the other.
If it's not clear already, leadership is without doubt mostly about behaviour, especially towards others. People who strive for these things generally come to be regarded and respected as a leader by their people:
- Integrity - the most important requirement; without it everything else is for nothing.
- Having an effective appreciation and approach towards corporate responsibility, (Triple Bottom Line, Fair Trade, etc), so that the need to make profit is balanced with wider social and environmental responsibilities.
- Being very grown-up - never getting emotionally negative with people - no shouting or ranting, even if you feel very upset or angry.
- Leading by example - always be seen to be working harder and more determinedly than anyone else.
- Helping alongside your people when they need it.
- Fairness - treating everyone equally and on merit.
- Being firm and clear in dealing with bad or unethical behaviour.
- Listening to and really understanding people, and show them that you understand (this doesn't mean you have to agree with everyone - understanding is different to agreeing).
- Always taking the responsibility and blame for your people's mistakes.
- Always giving your people the credit for your successes.
- Never self-promoting.
- Backing-up and supporting your people.
- Being decisive - even if the decision is to delegate or do nothing if appropriate - but be seen to be making fair and balanced decisions.
- Asking for people's views, but remain neutral and objective.
- Being honest but sensitive in the way that you give bad news or criticism.
- Always doing what you say you will do - keeping your promises.
- Working hard to become expert at what you do technically, and at understanding your people's technical abilities and challenges.
- Encouraging your people to grow, to learn and to take on as much as they want to, at a pace they can handle.
- Always accentuating the positive (say 'do it like this', not 'don't do it like that').
- Smiling and encouraging others to be happy and enjoy themselves.
- Relaxing - breaking down the barriers and the leadership awe - and giving your people and yourself time to get to know and respect each other.
- Taking notes and keeping good records.
- Planning and prioritising.
- Managing your time well and helping others to do so too.
- Involving your people in your thinking and especially in managing change.
- Reading good books, and taking advice from good people, to help develop your own understanding of yourself, and particularly of other people's weaknesses (some of the best books for leadership are not about business at all - they are about people who triumph over adversity).
- Achieve the company tasks and objectives, while maintaining your integrity, the trust of your people, are a balancing the corporate aims with the needs of the world beyond.