[November 19, 2018] In large commercial companies today there is a question going around that asks, “What are the basics elements of leadership?” In other words, is there some sort of minimum requirement or core competency for a person to succeed as a leader?
In my opinion, yes, there are some core things leaders must be able to do. The follow-on question then becomes, “What are they?”
Generally, the consensus is that a leader must be able to do two things well. First, accomplish the missions assigned to them. Finish them regularly, efficiently, and quickly. There will be some priority to any mission set and so the most important ones should be achieved without fail and with minimal losses or use of resources. And, it should go without saying, but I will verbalize it here, these missions must be accomplished within the rule of law, and morally and ethically.
Second, a leader must take care of the people they are sworn to protect. This means all reasonable efforts should be taken to ensure their safety, well-being, resource allocation, personal and professional development, and education. Depending upon the requirements of leader authority assigned, there will be some of these more important than others. This act of care must also be done efficiently, legally, morally, and ethically.
We call this being responsible. When a leader is able to carry out both their missions and take care of their people, that leader is responsible, respected, and will be viewed as successful. All other matters are simply style.
This past week, a number of examples where senior leaders failed to accomplish their job presented itself in California where more than 70 people are confirmed dead due to out-of-control fires. The reason for the fires is mismanagement of forest lands caused by self-imposed environmental restrictions. Another is the failure of New York City to plow their streets and grinding the city to a standstill with only six inches of snow.
In both these cases, senior political leaders failed to accomplish a high priority mission but simultaneously didn’t take care of their people. A double failure. Good leaders don’t do this. Some are now asking a good question, “Can U.S. leaders handle the basics of governing?”1