When we think about leadership, we often consider it in isolation. True bosses are the figures standing above the rest, always set apart as they spearhead the charge. Their word is law, their actions go unchallenged, and they do it all on their own.
In practice, though, that should never be the case. Leaders have a vast responsibility to the people they work with, to the point that it’s probably better to consider leadership as a form of service. So with that idea of responsibility on the table, what should true leadership look like?
Leadership Is About Responsibility—Not Power
That isn’t to say that leaders don’t have power: leaders have an enormous amount of power. In any organization, the leader has the power to set people up for success or failure, to bring them into the team or to fire them, to empower or belittle them, to improve their standing or ruin their lives.
With all of that in mind, it should be clear that leadership isn’t a power that should be taken lightly. It’s also not a power we want to see in the hands of the egotistical or the money-hungry, and for one simple reason: that power brings responsibility over not just the organization, but everyone within it. It’s a huge job, and the actions a leader takes affect everyone involved.
The best leaders can be an incredible source for good. Leaders should feel obligated to develop their people, to create opportunities for them and their families, and to guide the company’s strategies in line with a responsible vision and values. They bear the burden of helping create a culture of trust and cooperation, of owning and learning from their mistakes, and of leading the way in challenging situations. It’s a heavy responsibility to shoulder, but it’s one that can be a great positive force for everyone around you—when you do it right.
So how do you make the most of your responsibility to lead? Whether you’re confident in the way forward or you’re just learning the ropes at your organization, there are a few key principles to keep in mind for responsible leadership.
Five Key Principles of Responsible Leadership
- Inclusion: All stakeholders should be included in big decisions, and everyone should feel they have a voice to speak up when something’s wrong.
- Learning: Everyone in the company should be prepared to learn—including you. If that means continuous knowledge exchange and ongoing education, that’s what you need to do to get to the innovative ideas that work.
- Trust: You’ll get nowhere fast if your team can’t trust you. Being transparent about your motivations, mindset, and commitment can instil a sense of confidence in them.
- Strategy: Your people need to understand where they’re going in order to back you—which is why it’s so important to explain your specific vision and strategy.
- Adjustment: Inviting criticism feels scary, but it’s what helps you learn and adapt your leadership to those around you. Encourage feedback and be prepared to adjust based on what you learn.
The bottom line is this: it’s not all about you. Leadership is a form of service to the wide network of people you work with, and that means considering the impact of every action and decision. It’s a tough position to be in—but (if done right) it’s also incredibly life-changing and rewarding. To see true leadership in action, check out why Allison Krawiec-Thayer, founder of PoppyLead, is known as “the leaders’ leader,” plus her insights on how to make leadership work!