Ivan Whitaker

Ivan Whitaker


By Ivan Whitaker

What is your leadership style?

How did you obtain your leadership style?

How do you know if you’re a good leader?

A mentor told me that a great leader could spend a lifetime seeking the answers to these questions, in turn increasing the individual’s ability to lead.

To answer these questions, we must overcome a few barriers.

1.You must believe you are a leader.

2.You must have a desire to learn about leadership.

3.You must have a desire to know how others view you as a leader.

You must believe you are a leader

“I do not evaluate a leader until I see who that person’s followers are. Who is listening to the individual? Who respects the individual?”—Kenneth Chenault, CEO and chairman of American Express

In my opinion, numerous flawed definitions of leadership have blurred the ability of many to recognize the real leaders in their organizations. In the workplace, many interchange the words “leader” and “leadership” with a particular job title. I believe this is a tainted perception. Job titles are often closer to the word “management” than leadership. Some managers are also leaders; however, the two do not always go hand in hand. In fact, some leaders can drive the success of entire organizations without a definitive span of control.

Leaders tend to know when it is appropriate to rise to the occasion and motivate others to follow their lead. This usually occurs naturally and is not based on a position title. At times, it happens so naturally that the leader does not realize this is taking place. Due to flawed representations of the meaning, individuals may not recognize their role in nurturing and developing their leadership skills.

My first recognizable memory of witnessing this was at age 11. While playing an organized basketball game at a neighborhood YMCA, a boy on my team looked in my eyes and said “You will make the shot.” It would be the deciding shot of the game. He exuded confidence. He dribbled the ball down the court, made a shifty move, and passed me the ball. Without hesitation, I shot the ball, and “swoosh” the ball went in the net. Without celebration, the boy got on his bicycle and peddled away.

The boy who knew I could make the shot, Daunte Culpepper, grew up to be a Pro Bowl quarterback for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

You must have a desire to learn about leadership

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”—John F. Kennedy

Over the years, I have observed that many have not recognized the need to obtain information regarding differences in leadership styles.

When individuals sincerely focus on developing and nurturing their leadership skills, they also learn more about the characteristics of those they intend to lead. I first began my quest for leadership knowledge at the age of 19. During my first managerial position, I read about a CEO that was a transformational leader who successfully turned around several major corporations. He wrote, “With all my success, it wasn’t until my later years in life that I truly began to understand leadership” (Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s).

You must have a desire to know how others view you as a leader

“A good leader wants to get it done. Executional Quotient (EQ) is the most important thing—to have the focus and influence to get whatever the job at hand is completed.”—Kenneth Chenault

Never base your performance as a leader on a performance evaluation. Take a strong look at your ability to influence, motivate, and lead individuals toward common goals.

Does your leadership style include a high level of EQ?

EQ is the ability to focus on the job at hand and complete tasks. In leadership, this extends to the ability to get others to do the same. Great leaders can do so without sacrificing quality. While intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EI) are very important in leadership, EQ is particularly important because it is a tangible representation of your influence as a leader.

For those in management positions, consider conducting 360-degree evaluations. This can be valuable information moving forward. Make the evaluations anonymous. Take an objective look at the details of the evaluation and adjust accordingly.

Look to others for your future development. For those not in management positions, ask peers if you are viewed as a leader in the organization. Gain insight on their views of a good leader and build from there.