WHAT MAKES A GOOD LEADER?
Cindy Welch, NFPA Region II Director
We can all name several people, locally or nationally, who we admire for their leadership qualities, and it always interests me how they acquired those skills. Unfortunately, there’s no exact recipe; 1 tablespoon of intelligence, ¼ teaspoon of wit, ½ cup of respect, because none of us come to the table a blank slate. We have both personal and professional life experiences in our history so we are left to figure out what we need more of and in what quantity! Oh, yes, that’ll be easy… What I can offer is some suggestions of the “ingredients” needed – the quantities will be up to you.
- THE ABILITY TO LISTEN. When someone says something, it isn’t just the words they are sharing; it’s a feeling or a passion or even a lack of passion. If you’re unsure what the other person really means by their comments, repeat their statement back to them in your own words to see if you’ve got it.
- THE ABILITY TO “NOT SPEAK.” What? While serving as a member of my local association and as a current member of the NFPA board, I’ve watched observed leaders “not speaking.” This not only creates more opportunities for others to voice their opinion but it gives everyone a moment to reflect on previous discussion.
- THE ABILITY TO SHARE. No one person makes up a board or committee so when your goal is reached or the event is a success, share the accolades with the others on your team. Maybe even incorporate the royal “we” into your vocabulary now and then.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Whether you are the committee chair or the president of your board, if a project fails, take responsibility. Everyone know that typically it’s not just one person’s fault when an action is unsuccessful, so the members of your team will respect the fact that you are willing to step up and not point fingers at others. You and your team can disect the situtation in private so you can do a better job next time.
- BE OPEN TO IDEAS. Just because you didn’t think of it first doesn’t mean it isn’t a great idea. Consider the new team member who makes a suggestion and three or four of the long-time members immediately shut it down “because we tried that and it didn’t work.” Talk it out-while it may not have been successful many years ago, that same idea might work now if tweaked a little.
- LEARN ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION. While I had been a member of my local association for over a dozen years before I became president, I was truly surprised at how much I didn’t know about it. I made a point of visiting specialty sections I hadn’t attended before, welcoming each new member (via email,) meeting the attendees as they arrived for meetings, reading and re-reading the procedures and the bylaws and helping our executive director with registration,
- TRUST IN THE OTHERS ON YOUR TEAM. Trust that since they volunteered for that job or position, that they feel they can handle their duties. Give them a chance to succeed – they might surprise you. If you feel they need some assistance, give them a “buddy” on the board. Likewise, find yourself a buddy or mentor if you need help in a specific area.
- RESPECT OTHERS. There is no rule that says you have to be best friends with those on your team – or even like them - but you do need to respect them. Respect their ideas, their commitment to the board, and their time and efforts.
- LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Just as children learn this way, so do adults. Your respect and trust of others will be reciprocated. If you expect your team members to finish their assignments on time, then you need to do the same. The supervisors that I respected the most always got in the trenches with their employees.
Try tackling one of these attributes every month and even ask for some suggestions from your group. Make it a safe place for them to speak their mind and for you to shine as a leader.