Today’s guest post is written “for leaders only” by Steve Keating, a leader who definitely walks the talk. I have been following Steve on Twitter (@LeadToday) for quite a while now, and find him to be one of the most selfless individuals tweeting today. He offers sage advice and counsel, does not attempt to sell anybody anything, and his true intent is simply to help others become better people and better leaders. In addition to his leadership wisdom, what I’ve truly come to appreciate about Steve is his direct, no-nonsense approach to leadership which you’re about to experience first hand…Welcome to leadership Steve Keating style…

Yep, that’s what it says.  For Leaders Only!  If you’re not a leader or have no interest in becoming one, you can just skip this post and go about doing whatever it is that followers do.  If you are a leader or want to be, then read on.

First of all, notice that the title is not, for managers only.  In the sometimes menacing business environment where we all work today, the last thing any organization needs is more managers.  While managers may have the capacity to require the compliance of their people, a leader has the ability to gain the commitment of theirs.  Today, perhaps more then ever before, a key element to success is commitment.

Leading people is not an easy job; it takes skill, dedication, and a strong desire to see others succeed. The type of skills we are talking about here are skills such as the ability to motivate others, and to coach and transfer the knowledge that members of any organization need to thrive.  All leaders recognize the importance of developing their people, and most say it is a critical part of their job.  They understand that their own success is completely dependent on the success of their team.  Yet, many managers today attempt to succeed from behind a desk, assuming that they “know what’s going on” because they used to be “out there.”  Funny thing is, “out there” is not the same as it used to be.  It may not look like it, but our desks are miles wide and we cannot get a decent view of our organization from behind them.  If you’re the leader of a team, organization, or business today, and you’re not investing time with your followers on a very regular basis, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on with them.  Here is a test for you:  how many times in the last year has a member of your team had a problem or made a mistake and your first question to him or her was, “What the hell happened?”  You’re the leader, you shouldn’t need to ask the question, you should know!  Think about it.

How about dedication?  Leaders today have the dedication to make certain that obstacles never become excuses.  Leaders don’t let little things get in their way, managers use things like paperwork and reports as excuses for not leading, for not doing the things they say are critical to their own success.  Dedicated leaders just plain think differently than mere managers, they know that theirs is an awesome responsibility; maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, always doing the right thing, even when it is unpopular and perhaps most important, setting and sharing their vision for a successful future for the organization.  Are you a leader that leads their team through challenges or are you a manager that uses excuses to explain shortcomings?  It’s a tough question but I think it is a healthy one to ask ourselves from time to time.  What do you think?

Having a strong desire to see others succeed is a common characteristic of leaders.  A desire so strong that a leader will develop plans to ensure that success is possible.  Success just doesn’t happen; it is indeed the result of good planning and execution.  Ensuring success requires a leader to hold their team highly accountable, accountable not just to end results but to the actions required to achieve those results.

Leaders build trust with accountability, managers just hope for the best. A leader makes decisions. A leader inspires people. A leader has a vision. A leader simplifies. A leader makes things happen.  A leader raises issues, debates them, and resolves them. They aren’t afraid to go against today’s current because they know what they want to accomplish tomorrow.  Leaders don’t get stuck in the past, leaders are open to change! Leaders stimulate and relish change. Leaders aren’t frightened, paralyzed or threatened by it.  Leaders see change as an opportunity.  Leaders inspire and energize others to commit to success. They capture minds. They instill a sense of ownership. They lead by example.

Here are a few more questions for you to ponder: Are you a leader?  Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to do what it takes to really lead instead of just manage?  If that means making some changes, will you do it?  The choice is of course yours to make but before you do, ask yourself one last question, would you rather be managed or lead?  I thought so!

Thanks for the great contribution Steve…