Someone asked me recently what makes a good leader.
Seeing as I work for a leadership development center, and that I’ve led quite a few projects, businesses, and groups of people, this guy probably thought I was well equipped to answer his question. Truth be told, so did I.
I thought about it for a second.
Then, to my surprise, what began spewing from my lips was a verbose collection of the most cliché garbage I’ve ever heard. I started saying things like, “you’ve got to manage by walking around” and “you need to over communicate” and “set priorities for people” and on and on. He wrote some things down and then looked up at me like, “really?”
It was embarrassing. He knew it. I knew it. He thanked me (for what I’m not sure) and walked out.
Later that day I emailed him an apology. I also tried to redeem myself by offering some real leadership advice. The following is my non-cliché advice for how to be a good leader:
1. Be real with people. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
2. Be in constant communication. Informal is better and faster.
3. Push hard. Tell people what you expect.
4. Do remarkable things. Most people think great ideas are crazy at first.
I guess the point of it all is that being a good leader comes down to some pretty simple stuff. The danger is that leadership can easily be turned into a cliché. When it is, whether you’re just giving advice or actually living it out, people notice. Don’t be like me. Don’t be the cliché.