A Survival Guide to Successful Leadership

As in any great endeavor, not knowing what is required for survival or success is likely to lead to failure.

We often hear about wilderness survival adventures where the skills of surviving in the wilds are needed in order to return alive.

The same is true for leaders: without knowing the survival skills of leadership, the outcomes of failure or mediocrity are most likely. And no one wants to be known as a failed or mediocre leader.

I want to suggest a few survival essentials which every leader needs to succeed.

Teachable: In order for you to succeed as a leader you must be teachable. Contrary to what some may project and others expect, a leader does not know it all or have all the answers. As a leader, you must understand that those you lead, as individuals and as a body, have something to teach you. When feedback if offered, listen to those who are trying to help you be better at what you do.

A leader who is teachable will have at least one mentor to help in developing leadership skills.

A Good Listener: Good leaders are good listeners. Think of the people you enjoy being around, of those whose opinion you value, and you likely will discover that one of the main reasons you value their opinion is because they seem to listen to you. As a result, you feel they understand you.

Good listening is also what makes those you lead feel understood and cared for. One of the surest ways of making someone feel ignored is to not listen to them.

I recall working for a leader who invited me to a weekly one-on-one meeting but did not allow me to say much. Whenever I did say something, I felt he was more concerned about comparing a similar experience of his own rather than truly hearing me.

I have learned that when people feel heard, they will speak. When people feel ignored, they will not speak.

Forgiveness:  Forgiveness is essential to the survival and success of a leader. Being “at the top” makes you a more visible target; as a result people will take shots at you. If you do not know how to forgive, let things go and continue moving toward the goals and objective of your leadership responsibilities, you will become a prisoner of the hurts you experience.

Leaders who can’t forgive will become vindictive and obsessed with getting even; this rarely ends well for the leader or the organization. When a vindictive leader leaves, it usually takes the organization a long time to recover from the damage caused.

On the other hand, a forgiving leader usually builds a strong team that is able to function effectively. Most of the time a forgiving leader knows it is not all about them, but the organization which is bigger than them.

Core Convictions: A successful leader must know the guiding principles by which they lead. Soldiers do not wait until they get into the battle to pick out their weapons; instead they carry their weapons with them. In the same way leaders should not wait until they are in the battle of tough decision-making to try to decide if something is right or wrong, fair or unjust. These core value issues should be settled before hand.

I once heard someone say that when it comes to matters of core convictions, you should have said yes or no before you had to say yes or no. In other words, decide your position before you are asked to declare it.

How are you surviving in your role as leader? Maybe you need to take a step back and check on your survival skills. Do you need to address one or two or three or all of the above in order to enhance your chances of survival – and success – as a leader?

If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at errol@errolcarrim.com to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.