“Do not follow where the path may lead..Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Harold R. McAlindon (also attributed to Emerson and others)

Nobel and inspiring words. Easily said but much harder to implement. Leadership what is? How does one practice it? Develop it, learn it and finally master it?  Four leadership basics and 11 leadership principals are all that you need to develop and become a successful leader. Before we get started, let’s define leadership. Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. An alternative definition (that I prefer) - Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Leadership Basics (Leadership 101)

Leader -You must have an honest understanding of who you are, what you know, and what you can do. Also, note that it is the followers, not the leader who determines if the leader is successful. If they do not trust or lack confidence in their leader, then they will be uninspired. To be successful you have to convince your followers, not yourself or your superiors, that you are worthy of being followed.

Followers- Different people require different styles of leadership. For example, a new hire requires more supervision than an experienced employee. A person who lacks motivation requires a different approach than one with a high degree of motivation. You must know your people!

Communication- You lead through two-way communications. Much of it is nonverbal. For instance, when you “set the example,” that communicates to your people that you would not ask them to perform anything that you would not be willing to do. What and how you communicate either builds or harms the relationship between you and your employees.

Situation- All situations are different. What you do in one situation will not always work in another. You must use your judgment to decide the best course of action and the leadership style needed for each situation. For example, you may need to confront an employee for inappropriate behavior, but if the confrontation is too late or too early, too harsh or too weak, then the results may prove ineffective.

The Principles of Leadership (“How to” -101) Follow these eleven principles of leadership: 1.    Know yourself and seek self-improvement - Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening your attributes. This can be accomplished through self-study, formal classes, reflection, and interacting with others. 2.    Be technically proficient - As a leader, you must know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees' tasks. 3.    Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions - Search for ways to guide your organization to new heights. And when things go wrong, they always do sooner or later — do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge. 4.    Make sound and timely decisions - Use good problem solving, decision making, and planning tools. 5.    Set the example - Be a good role model for your peers. They must not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see. 6.    Know your people and look out for their well-being - Know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your workers. 7.    Keep your workers informed - Know how to communicate with not only them, but also seniors and other key people. 8.    Develop a sense of responsibility in your workers - Help to develop good character traits that will help them carry out their professional responsibilities. 9.    Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished - Communication is the key to this responsibility. 10.    Train as a team - Although many so called leaders call their organization, department, section, etc. a team; they are not really teams...they are just a group of people doing their jobs. 11.    Use the full capabilities of your organization - By developing a team spirit, you will be able to employ your organization, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities.

These factors and principals are time tested and proven methods for evaluating/creating strong leaders. They are the same basics and principals that the United State Department of Defense uses to train military personnel in leadership skills. It is remarkable how the DOD can take a 18 year old high school graduate and in short time instill in them the leadership characteristics that allow them to lead soldiers in battle, maintain and operate multi-million dollar technology and do so effectively and efficiently within a command and control infrastructure that relies on ALL levels of leadership by ALL personnel.

In my career; these principals and factors have never let me down. I am constantly reviewing them and evaluating my performance against them. After 30 years in numerous leadership positions; I am confident of my abilities and skills because I have a rock solid foundation to work from. How about you? Are you ready to take a more active role within our organization? Are you ready to bring your unique skills and perspective into our organization and LEAD us to greater levels of success? What are you waiting for?  In closing; I want to leave you with one last quote (my favorite)… “Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Nelson Ros