ten truths of leadership (that you and I need).

Entrepreneurs need to know how to lead.
Creatives need to know how to lead.
(Okay, everyone needs to know how to lead.)

Leadership skills are critical.

(This is a longer post. Stick with it.
I believe you’ll find something here that you’ll like… and use.)

You might have heard it before: “To lead is to serve others.”

The phrase is true, but not entirely. You see, many in leadership have a heart, a desire, to lead in service … but they don’t really know how to make it happen.

The desire to lead isn’t enough. And position (simply being appointed to stand in the spot) isn’t enough.

(Leadership is so much more.)

I was part of an event today. The event was fairly big — with lots of excitement and fun. Yet, there was a dynamic of preparing for the event that struggled. (uugh. my heart felt it.)

Let me clarify.

The “end event” was a fabulous success. So much was accomplished! So many were helped! So much good happened! Brilliant! Woo-hoo! (I am completely honored to be part.)

But there’s something that could have happened — a dynamic and result — that could have made the final event even more brilliant. Some some of the lead-up to the event (having to do with leading volunteers) had struggles that simply didn’t need to happen.

And that breaks my heart. As in agh. I can’t sleep. (I take it as a sign of caring so deeply, so hey, Sleepless in Kalamazoo will endeavor to turn this into something positive.)

Did the job get done? Yes. But at times, I felt terrible — for both the leader and the people she endeavored to lead.

The leader simply didn’t know what she didn’t know.

(Again. It breaks my heart to see struggles.)

Some of you might not know: I was honored to teach leadership at the college level for many years.

It was a learning experience; each time I taught the course, I walked away feeling more humbled, more thirsty for understanding, and more in awe of the skills of truly great leaders.

Leadership secrets also invaded my growing up years. My dad worked with Warren Bennis, Ken Blanchard, and other leadership gurus breaking ground for much of what we understand in leadership theory and practice today.

(By the way, dinner conversations taught me more about leadership than any class could. Go Dad.)

But today, once again, I learned the critical truth of how important it is to know how to lead others effectively. 

At some point, you and I are going to lead. How will you and I do?

Read these 10 critical have-to’s of leadership. It will make you a better person, whether you lead one or many.

1. An effective leader physically mobilizes others. That means getting people organized to move and do.

“Mobilizing” sees the task at hand and parses out the job — knowing what tasks to attack first, second, and third…then doing it.

Mobilizing also means having an above-the-crowd view — able to assess the group’s needs before they happen.

Your mind whirrs and whizzes as to what could be — running the scenarios through in succession, playing them out far enough into their crazy possibilities.

Only then — after firing the brain into the future and back — do effective leaders choose the best actions.

By the way, if a person isn’t mobilized, he or she feels badly.

At best, the non-mobilized person sits around bored; at the worst, the non-mobilized person feels that their precious time was wasted. Ouch.

We want each person to feel valued — that he or she played an integral part in the success of the task. Mobilizing plays a key part in perceived value.

2. Effective leaders appoint others over sections of the task. Leadership happens in strata: layers of leaders.

You can’t do it alone. You shouldn’t do it alone. You shouldn’t even do most of it.

Sectioning off tasks with second-level leaders is critical. Train the person to do the task well. And then let the people on the second level go for it.

3. Effective leaders change direction quickly. Without blinking an eye, and without emotional attachment, leaders say, “That’s not working. Let’s go this way instead.”

And there’s no angst about it. We simply change. Every movement back on track is good.

Effective leaders don’t waste energy on what could have been; effective leaders are in the now — and feel good about it.

4. Effective leaders vigilantly keeps a finger on the pulse of the group, to be a support to whomever needs it. I’m not talking about micromanaging; I’m talking about knowing when to step in and guide, and then step out again.

Imagine six men moving a large beam together. A seventh man (the leader) walks alongside, vigilant and alert to the six men’s needs and motions. The leader trusts the six men to carry the beam. But if one of the six starts to falter, the alert leader moves in, gives support, and then, once the beam is righted, steps back out again.

That’s how a leader supports his team. Always there. Moving in when needed. And stepping out when the task is steady.

5. Effective leaders communicate. Clearly. And often.

Before the event, tell the people what will happen. Give details. During the event, tell them they’re doing a good job, and everything is on schedule and running smoothly. Give updates. If anything changes, communicate quickly and clearly. And when the job is complete, tell them what was accomplished.

Talk. And talk often.

Ask questions. Find out what’s working and what’s not.

And use a microphone, so you can talk to everyone at the same time. When you talk to everyone as a group, we experience the event together. We are a group. A team. One.

That builds an intangible: connection.

6. Effective leaders use enthusiasm. I don’t care if you’re not a boisterous person. Whether you consider yourself quiet or loud, your inner spark — your inner passion — needs to come through.

If your passion doesn’t come through, then maybe you’re not the right person for the position.

Find a way to communicate how great it is to be working together. Really.

7. Effective leaders smile. With their whole face, in their eyes, and with their bodies.

You have to reach out — to be vulnerable by risking others to see who you really are. That means showing joy in what you do.

The smile is the fastest way to connect between two people. Effective leaders connect.

8. Effective leaders thank their people. Specifically. Often. Up close — with sincerity, a look in the eye, and a pat on the back.

When the job’s done, it’s not enough to say to the group, “Okay, thanks! See you tomorrow!”

Effective leaders walk around to each person, making sure that the connection is made on a deeper level. Honestly. With deep gratitude.

Flippancy has no part in leadership.

9. Effective leaders are personal. They ask for your name — and use your name. They look you in the eye and remember something special about you. They ask you questions about your thoughts, your feelings, and your experiences.

Effective leaders are interested in the persons involved, not just the job at hand.

10. Effective leaders want to give their people an experience. Getting a job done is not the experience.

The experience is about building relationships and community.

Especially with volunteers, people work together for the connection. Connection only happens when all get involved, with side-by-side action AND heart-by-heart connection.

Leadership is learned. I believe with my whole being that the best way to raise up leaders is to mentor.

Side-by-side, the less experienced leaders work with the experienced — and both grow.

Only when we grow do we become leaders who truly make a mark — creating an experience and outcome greater than first imagined.

* Thup


  1. All excellent points, Erin! I’ve actually been in leadership positions quite a few times, so am familiar with these things, though never stopped to think about them as a list or requirement of leadership—I just did it. Also, depending on what you’re doing, if you are leading volunteers, if it’s a case in which you don’t know the abilities—or lack of—things won’t go as smoothly, and there can also be a slacking of responsibility 😦

    For sure, you have to be a very analytical, organized person or don’t even attempt it! lol Great post, Erin 🙂
    P.S. speaking of coffee, I just saw (on writershelpingwriters.net) gifts for writers and one of them is called “joulies.” They’re expensive, but they claim to keep your coffee hot for hours 😉

    • Thanks — I appreciate the feedback. Yes, we can instinctively interact well — and bringing to light the truths that guide us helps us to be intentional. I love intentionality.

      Agreed — Leading volunteers can be tough — but there’s a beauty in being able to identify people’s gifts and skills quickly, then put them to use. A great leader knows how to ask, identify, and direct with speed, right?

      Again — one last time to beat this drum: It’s critical for leaders to grow leaders, helping those who are newer to leadership by pairing up with people who are skilled and experienced in leadership. So much can be accomplished, by tapping into those who have been-there-done-that.
      * Thup
      PS. The joulies look great! Stocking stuffer idea…yeah!

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