Leadership Lessons: Don’t Be a Bully, Don’t Walk Alone, and Keep Your Team Safe and Secure

August 12, 2019

Deke Copenhaver

Leadership Focus is written by Deke Copenhaver, Principal with Copenhaver Consulting LLC. The former mayor of Augusta, a triathlete, writer and runner, Deke is focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.
For many years now I’ve been fascinated by what good leadership looks like and the power it can have to spark positive change in communities, individuals, businesses or any type of organization, large or small. In a world where a “win at all costs” mentality seems to have taken root in many sectors of our society, I believe that the world is hungrier now more than ever for true, authentic leadership. In this column I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you some leadership lessons I’ve learned along the way which I hope will be helpful in your own leadership endeavors.

The first observation I would make is this…if you have to use fear and intimidation to get your desired outcome, that’s not exercising good leadership, its simply bullying. Individuals in leadership positions employing this tactic may get the results they desire from individual team members, but in the long term the overall health of the team they’re leading will suffer dramatically. I’ve witnessed businesses that are very profitable with this type of personality at the helm, but they tend to also have major turnover in their employee base on a regular basis, and their cultures tend to be extremely toxic.

In observing leaders from all walks of life, one thing I’ve always noticed is that they never walk alone. They may be the point of the spear, but true and authentic leaders understand that no one individual can accomplish anything by working alone. The truly great leaders I’ve come in contact with in my life are those who are able to rally people around a goal greater than themselves while inspiring others to work with them towards achieving that goal. Ultimately transformational leaders tend to have a “we first” as opposed to “me first” mindset.

During a conversation with a friend a few years back, we discussed what it meant to be the alpha of the pack in the animal kingdom. My friend made the observation that while we may consider the alpha to be dominant, in reality the alpha is the one who kept the pack safe and secure. This is another trait of great leaders that I’ve come to admire: as opposed to making the team around them feel stressed and anxiety ridden, they have a tendency to make the individuals they serve and serve with feel safe and secure as they pursue the endeavor the team has undertaken.

These are just a few observations of what true and authentic leadership does and doesn’t look like and by no means represent an exhaustive list. That would take more than one column. If you’re a regular reader of the column, you know my passion for seeing the value of true and authentic leadership at the local level in elected office as well as for training up a new generation of leaders.

As I’ve often stated, I firmly believe that positive change in our nation has to start from the grassroots up and not the top down and it begins with our efforts at the local level. Many thanks to each of you for the work you do in leading cities throughout our great state!

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