A graphic that illustrates a leader standing out from a group.

Today, I had the pleasure of attending an excellent leadership seminar led by former Purchasing.com blogger extraordinaire and current Tyco procurement executive, Lara Nichols. Through her well-structured presentation, Ms. Nichols did a fantastic job of helping the attendees to gain a better understanding of what is – and what isn’t – leadership.

However, it was during one of the breakout activities that Ms. Nichols built into the agenda that I gained an interesting perspective into some additional characteristics that are and are not leadership. Let me explain…

The attendees were split into groups of about 8-10 people each. Each group was tasked to create a skit to demonstrate a leadership quality.

I obviously have a leadership role here at Next Level Purchasing. Being a father, I naturally have leadership responsibilities when I leave the office. And even my recreational activities are organized types of activities that need a leader, so guess who that is? Yep – me!

Therefore, when I attend leadership seminars, I like to sit back and give leadership opportunities to those who may not have current leadership responsibilities in their work. It helps me learn when I use this type of opportunity for “observing leadership” moreso than “practicing leadership.”

So, I sat back while my group mates started throwing around ideas. One of the characteristics of a leader is stepping up and taking charge. And one of the members of the group did step up.

With all of the characteristics of leadership that Ms. Nichols covered, it was clear that, theoretically, leadership is not the presence of a single trait. And this was certainly obvious as this group member tried to lead us to a complete skit. He had the presence that communicated leadership, but couldn’t really crystalize a plan that persuaded others to “get on board.”

As Ms. Nichols gave warnings about the time remaining for our breakout, we weren’t close to a solution. While I would have preferred to be in a group where someone else could pull everyone together, I couldn’t sit back any longer and watch a disaster happen.

I decided to step up after all. I diplomatically suggested a skit and everyone in the group expressed buy-in and excitement. We went with the plan.

The takeaways I got from this exercise, which I now share with you, are:

    • Leadership is actually a combination of traits, not just one thing. One can have one great leadership trait, but be an ineffective leader overall.
    • Leaders don’t have to come up with the plan. Sometimes, leadership is sitting back and letting others come up with the perfect plan.
  • However, when others can’t develop a plan, a true leader will feel an insatiable desire to spring into action.

What is leadership to you?
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is the Founder, President & Chief Procurement Officer of the Next Level Purchasing Association. Charles is also the Co-Author of "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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