Sunday, February 28th, 2021

How do you lead?

Posted: Thursday, September 9, 2010

By Theresa Farrington Rhodes, president of Lacy Leadership Association

Some are well known; some are not. Some are in the public eye; some behind the scenes. Some are assertive, Type A personalities; some are quiet and reserved in their leadership. But all of the leaders and mentors that I have learned from and modeled my leadership style after have several things in common. They understand that leadership is defined by the ability to influence others in a positive way, they model what they believe in, and they embrace the mantra of “know myself, be myself, and use my traits, characteristics, strengths and values to develop my own leadership style”.

The most important lesson I learned years ago regarding this issue is to make sure you know your own leadership style and honor it ... you’ve heard it for years and you’ve applied it in a variety of life settings: don’t try to be someone who you are not. It’s not genuine, and it won’t work.

As Lacy Leadership Association prepares for our annual Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program, we find ourselves asking Indianapolis’ leaders “how do you lead” – and, “how can you lead more effectively”?

Over the years, I have developed driving principles that guide my own leadership style and influence the way I operate. Don’t be gray. Don’t be wishy-washy. Know your strengths and capitalize on them. Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people who make up for them. Be knowledgeable, develop your positions and standards based on your values and be comfortable articulating them and defending them when needed. Don’t be afraid to speak up, get involved and make a difference when you are passionate about an issue. Remember that there is a time for consensus building and there is also a time for decision making.

These guidelines have served me well in the past ten years as I’ve interacted with hundreds of strong, passionate and effective leaders. Lacy Leadership Association has 1,938 alumni, 604 members and 593 LEAD graduates, and while each leader has their own unique characteristics, these ten continue to resonate with me:

• Leadership is about influence, which includes mentoring and modeling.
• Leaders are listeners and problem solvers, able to meet challenges head on and work through them.
• Leaders encourage productive discomfort, constructive dissent and an exchange of ideas, and know how to keep this within a respectful and useful range.
• Leaders know who they are, and are not, and are comfortable in their own skins.
• Leaders know their strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else.
• Leaders sometimes have to step back and watch something succeed without remaining at the helm.
• Leaders realize that perception is reality, and people approach issues, challenges, incidents, and decision making from very different places.
• Leaders must be prepared to address differences in learning styles, communication styles and comfort zones.
• Leaders focus on making a positive impact.
• And most importantly, truly effective leaders realize the difference between notoriety and greatness, between fame and substance, between seeking glory and showing true leadership.

How do you lead? Whether you see yourself in one (or several) of the characteristics above, I hope you choose to lead effectively and with passion – and to be the person others choose to follow.

Theresa Farrington Rhodes serves as the president of Lacy Leadership Association, the premier leadership network in the greater Indianapolis area, where she works closely with her board of directors on inspiring, linking and leading through high-level engagement opportunities and programs.