Thoughts on Leadership: The Marks of a Mentor Leader

Last week, we looked at the 10 characteristics every leader must understand, adopt and live by. This week is a further look at characteristics and action steps you can take to attain these core traits. I've been sharing key insights from Tony Dungy's book, The Mentor Leader. In Chapter 4, "The Marks of a Mentor Leader – Characteristics that Matter," Dungy divides leadership characteristics into three groupings: trustworthy traits, leadership attributes, and relational qualities.

Below are the key points from Chapter 4:

  • Character is the foundation on which all leadership is built. It is the fundamental mark of effective leadership.
  • The kinds of people we have on our team will affect our ability to get the results we want.
  • In times of crisis, people gravitate toward the person of highest character.
  • As leaders, we must be able to explain why one path is better than another.
  • If the people in your organization can’t rely on you, how are they going to follow you?
  • Mentor leaders need to exhibit confidence - not a false bravado, but an inner sense of security.
  • Above all, mentor leaders must be genuine. People know a fake when they see one.
  • In order to lead effectively, mentor leaders must be willing to get into the trenches. They must get involved.
  • Faith, simply stated, is belief put into action.
  • Long-term success requires faith – faith that your efforts to plan and execute the process will lead to the desired outcome.
  • Leading with faith requires a level of optimism that isn’t always easy to maintain.
  • Mentor leaders are capable of continual growth.
  • The key is being willing to listen – and act.
  • In addition to knowing the importance of the cause, people want to know that their leader has their back.
  • The best leaders, according to Tony Dungy, are those who are engaged with the people around them.
  • Being available and approachable is necessary for effective leadership.
  • Loyalty takes trustworthiness and integrity to another level.

The following are the Action Steps found at the end of Chapter 4 that will help you strive to attain character, as well as the other core traits, attributes, and qualities of a mentor leader:

Action Steps

1. Review the trustworthy traits, leadership attributes, and relational qualities discussed above and evaluate whether you need to give additional attention to them in your own life. 2. Are you accountable? Think hard about how those around you would describe you to others. 3. Do you accept responsibility when appropriate, or do you always look to place the blame on others? 4. Do you make sure that people are recognized – specifically, by name, where appropriate – when credit is to be given? 5. If you are not presently accountable, look for ways in which others can see that you are willing to share the responsibility for things that go wrong. 6. Do you live with integrity? Take an honest look at whether others would agree that your word is your bond. 7. Many people still resist the idea that leaders should be available and approachable. Evaluate your own perspective. Determine how you can begin to build strength into the people you lead. 8. Are you loyal? When was the last time you went to bat for someone, especially against the tide of popular opinion? 9. Are you comfortable with not being the most knowledgeable person in the room? Are you secure enough to teach and share with others the things you know that will help them to be better at what they do? 10. Are you the same person in public as you are in private? Can people rely on your sincerity? 11. It has been suggested that character is demonstrated when no one is watching. Are you a person of character? Are you helping and encouraging others to build their character as well? 12. Are you shepherding those around you? Your family? The people you lead? Would you place yourself in harm’s way for their sakes – either physically or professionally? 13. Are you willing to change? Are you continuing to develop your knowledge and skill to become the most competent person you can be? 14. Do you exhibit faith in what you’re asking others to believe in?

Which personal attributes do you already bring to the table, and which ones do you need to improve? Some traits, such as personality, are what they are, and that’s fine. Mentor leaders should simply be who they are. There’s no need to try to be someone else. However, other traits, attributes, and qualities that are central to mentor leadership can be identified, acquired, and improved.