When we look at all the aspects of leadership, there are three core and fundamental questions that matter the most to the people whom we intend to lead.
Do You Know What You Are Talking About?
The most important aspect of leadership, then is competence. Do we know what we are talking about? Do we know what the ground reality is? Do we understand the process enough to make sense? Do we know where we are going? And why? This competence creates a level of respect for us as leaders, without which there is no leading. If the people we follow don’t respect us and our competence, they are not going to follow us. We would have failed even before we got started.
Can I trust you?
Once they respect us as individuals and for our competence, next comes trust. Do we do what we say we do? Do we have double standards or gold standards? Do we live up the values that we expect others to live up to? Are we transparent about our intentions? Do people have to second guess everything that we say? Is there enough trust amongst both sides of the leadership equation that honest conversation about difficult topics can be had without any personal repercussions?
Do you care about me?
Once people respect our competence and trust our intentions, they need to see that we care about them and their needs. A leader who only cares about himself and his growth soon finds himself stuck and all alone. Leadership is all about people. Leadership and leading people is actually a misnomer. There can only be people following someone and not someone leading a set of people. Following is an act of independent will. Anything else, will not last. Anything else doesn’t matter. So, if we want people to follow us, we need to show them that we care for them and also show why it is important for them to go in the direction that we want to lead them towards.
Irrespective of whom we want to lead (team at work, spouse and children, a community, a nation), the three most important characteristics that we need to develop in ourselves are competence (that gets us respected), sound character (that elicits trust) and learning that it is not about us but about those whom we intend to lead (to show them that we care).
The ability to communicate well, the ability to think big and every other leadership skill needs these foundational traits to work.