Written by Telana Simpson
“Although ambition is a part of leadership, it should be about doing a good job for others and not for a career move” exclaimed Al Gini, professor and author on business ethics and leadership. Gini was speaking at GIBS on his tour of South Africa and was addressing a packed auditorium.
“Our ambition should be to be a good leader and not to be called a leader” he continued. Gini is all about the style of leadership known as Servant Leadership and was speaking about his book ‘Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership and Character‘ that he co-authored with Ronald Green.
Leadership is a nominalization, and as such is not a thing that you can physically touch and see. It is a process, and involves a set of behaviours and character traits that result in actions with a specific outcome.
So if we wanted to learn more about leadership, we can break it down into its components to not only unpack it, but find the structure of the process so that we can then learn to develop it ourselves. And Gini was adamant that leaders are born and made, and that leadership can be taught.
The process of Leadership
The process of being a leader, shared Gini, is dependent on the following in the individual:
- raw talent
- competence and training
- temperament, and especially the disposition of liking people and wanting to lead out
- accepting challenge and how they deal with change
- and timing and results, as the persons abilities need to match the demand of the time they find themselves in, and they will be measured by what they achieve.
Character is also a key part of a leader. What motivates the person, drives them, their values and ability to use their knowledge for the betterment of the people s/he is leading, contributes to the type of leader the person will be.
Stewardship is also vital, as leadership is not about the individual, but rather about the people the individual serves. So having the ethic of responsible management and planning of resources is what results in an outstanding agent of others.
Gini also made a point about trust. “Ethical Leadership comes down to characters with character, and they offer their constituents trust, a key part of relationships.” We will follow someone we feel we can trust as we will have confidence in their character.
Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders
Although there is no single profile of a leader, Gini believes that there are ten virtues which outstanding leaders demonstrate by their character. And by virtue he means “an action you choose to perform or an attribute you choose to maintain to add to the quality of your life and of others.”
1. Deep honesty
This virtue is about caring about the truth and telling the truth. There is no room for deception as knowledge is power. Sharing knowledge appropriately with others is transparency, and admitting when you don’t know is preferable than misleading.
2. Moral Courage
This virtue is about doing the right thing at the right time, not matter the consequence or how hard it is. It’s having the courage to deal with criticism, embarrassment, and the fear of being seen to be in the wrong, of being ostracized or even of losing your job.
3. Moral Vision
Outstanding leaders understand the importance of ethics, and the nuances of what’s going on. They can see the larger implications and are able to communicate the consequences with others.
4. Compassion and Care
They are concerned about the well being of others and embrace their – and others – humanity.
Outstanding leaders may be tough- but they are always fair. They understand that people are all unique, but don’t treat them differently.
6. Intellectual Excellence
Critical thinking, being educated, and having a raw intelligence are marks of great leaders. They are open to learning and read lots, and thus know their subjects well.
7. Good Timing
Timing and presentation are key. Leaders know when to act and when not to. They also are aware of the importance of presentation and gauge when to be serious, when to be humourous.
8. Creative Thinking
An entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, and thinking out of the box make up the creativity that good leaders demonstrate.
9. Aesthetic Sensitivity
Leaders know that if something is beautiful, it is more enticing. They appreciate beauty, they can create it and also leverage it for the cause they are leading.
10. Deep Selflessness
The final virtue on Gini’s list is about being very concerned about those the leader leads, and not about his or her own career. Outstanding leaders feel a responsibility towards their followers, even experiencing their followers’ best interests as a burden.
These virtues are universal and thus transcend cultural nuances, and they all start with leaders learning to lead themselves first by learning about their own abilities and weaknesses, before leading others and imposing their faults on them.
“Humans are not perfect. There is no leader without flaws or liabilities” added Gini, concluding his talk. “The last good quality of an outstanding leader is knowing when to go and when to step down.” And with having shared so much about ethical leadership, Gini closed with a quote and stepped away from the podium.
For more about Professor Al Gini, see his blog here.
About the Author:
Telana is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach and Blogger who specializes in communicating and relating. She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions. She offers coaching and training programmes to help individuals develop their ability to express themselves and their potentials and improve their relationships, and is a host of an online TV show.