By Michael Holland

You know a great leader within a few minutes of talking with him. There’s no mistake.  He stands out like an oak tree in the middle of the desert.  His title – or lack of a title bear – no connection to his leadership impact.  He creates a circle of safety that makes you want to do better.  He’s an explicit leader and so rare.  He’s not phony or entitled or selfish or just wearing the costume of leadership.

The explicit leader is genuine, authentic, selfless and extremely successful.  And so rare in today’s corporations, particularly in the ranks of those filling leadership roles.

Here’s what to expect in the ever-so-rare explicit leader.

Explicit in Behavior – An explicit leader’s behaviors are consistent over time and radiate a sense of confidence mixed with empathy.  If you work for an explicit leaders you know how they will react to a given situation and you know you will be fully supported no matter what.  You have been empowered and protected.  The circle of safety created allows you room to grow without fear of being thrown under the bus.

Explicit in Conversation – An enormous strength of an explicit leader is their capability to articulate clear messages about everything.  They are clear with expectations.  They engage immediately in conversations regarding minor performance items rather than wait 10 months the next annual performance review.  While these leaders recognize the tension that exists in difficult conversations, they see the bigger picture knowing that conflict can be healthy and a great enabler to building trusted relationships as well as a vehicle to drive out underlying misperceptions.

Explicit in Values – Values, or maybe more accurately the lack there-of, set great leaders apart from all others.  An explicit leader reveals their values not in a list to be posted on the wall, but in their daily walk in life.  They exude the principles, beliefs, faith and morals that form the basis for all their decisions and actions.  You know who they are.   Their values are clearly developed, formulated.  And they lead in ways to do the right things not just the things they are told to do.

A leader’s role no matter what their title, is to create a circle of safety that allows those around them to feel comfortable in performing at their best and beyond.  When we care more about the profits than about the people who are working to create those profits, we risk rewarding the wrong types of leaders and sadly driving the talented, explicit leaders out.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • How do you think you are perceived as a leader given the list above?
  • Think back through all the leaders, coaches, mentors, teachers you’ve had in your life.  Who pops up like an oak in the desert for you?  What was it that they did that makes them stand out for you?
  • How would you define the “costume of leadership?” Grab a peer and talk through your description and their reaction.