Leadership: Nature vs. Nurture
We've often heard it debated as to whether leaders are born or developed, which I find to be an interesting conversation. While I do believe that you can be born with certain leadership "characteristics", that in no way means that you will become a leader. Let's take for example, the person who has been extremely extroverted and charismatic their entire life, but lacks the vision and discipline necessary to lead. Conversely, there have been many people who have conquered their fear of public speaking or social anxiety or some great tragedy to lead a movement because of how much it meant to them.
One of my favorite leadership mentors, Robin Sharma, defines leadership in a way that I really connected with. He said, "Leadership is really about using the authentic power that resides within you to go out in the world every day and leave things better than you found them. I think that is really the ultimate definition of leadership. No matter what your station is in life, whether you are a taxi driver or a street sweeper or a poet or a CEO or a wildly successful entrepreneur, the best leaders have this ability to always be delivering what I call ABDOV, Always Be Delivering Outrageous Value."
I believe leadership is something we all possess and can access to varying degrees. Whether you call it leadership, personal potential, authentic power or anything else, it is discovering and actualizing the power and greatness that lies inside of you. It's about consciously choosing to never play small, because you know that you would not have the dreams you have unless you had the corresponding ability to make those dreams happen!
So whether born with or developed, here are 10 attributes I believe are essential to truly great leadership:
Great leaders have impeccable integrity. They are crystal clear about their core values, and always operate with sound judgment and strength of character. Integrity exists when your inner values and outward actions are aligned. It's about knowing what your core values are, and then shaping your life around those values. And I do mean YOUR core values, not some perceived expectation that someone else has placed on you. In fact, another gem I once heard Robin Sharma share, is that "the greatest pain a human being can suffer is the gap between who you truly are and who you currently are in the world." He called it the "integrity gap", or the gap between your authentic self and the social self that you've adopted through the years based on the limiting beliefs, behaviors and assumptions of the world around you. Ultimately, leadership is all about closing that gap.
Leaders have the ability to look ahead and see possibility. They have absolute clarity of vision. Yet it's not enough to just have vision ... Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., said, "Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion." Great leadership requires masterful communication that is clear, passionate, purposeful and contagious! The vision has to be more than just inspiring, it has to light a fire and inspire a Movement!
3. Self Mastery
You must be very clear as to what you intend to create, and then spend time every single day seeing those things as if they have already been fulfilled. Great leaders lock in on that vision every day, and build their mission and action plan accordingly. World-class results require daily, purposeful practices that you integrate into your life to serve as your constant reminder of your vision.
Leaders never suffers from 'analysis paralysis'. They get the facts, weigh them against one another, and calmly and quickly make sound decision. Leaders are deeply grounded in their core values, and therefore, decisiveness is second nature. Because of their integrity, vision and self-mastery, leaders are not prone to unpredictable actions. Decisiveness is what moves the vision forward, and while there will be times that a leader receives additional information that causes them to change their decision, it is important that their community respects them as someone who typically makes excellent decisions and stands by them.
5. Positive Expectancy
Great leaders are optimistic. Leaders always see the glass half-full, because they operate from a place of faith, not fear. Positive Expectancy is all about faith in action! This quote from Brian Tracy highlights what this concept is all about. "Feeling confident and hopeful puts forth an invisible and powerful influence that causes people and situations to work out as planned. When you believe in the likelihood of positive outcomes, your performance will lead to favorable result. Once you believe that it is impossible to fail, you will act in spite of your fears and uncertainties."
6. Selfless Service
Great leaders are not motivated by their own agenda, but the well-being of the collective team, community or group being led. Their joy comes from serving others and raising them up! The new model of leadership is very much about collaboration, and creating a place where people feel heard, supported, guided and safe. Great leaders build communities where people feel respected and cherished, and it is because of the leadership that the tribe trusts that this is a place to grow and prosper.
7. Unwavering Commitment
Leaders dedication is simply not questioned, because their vision is so clear and so great. Time and energy are ALWAYS available, and their enthusiasm can move mountains! This insatiable appetite comes from an understanding that they will never "arrive", and that there is always more work to be done and a bigger difference that can be made. This "unscratchable itch" is what provides the level and quality of focus that is required of great leaders.
Leaders are great listeners and open to possibility that there could be a better way. They are non-reactive, yet as I mentioned, they know when it's time to make a decision and can make it! Leaders can adapt to change because they have the keen ability to find openings where others see walls, as well as see opportunity before it arrives. And of course, they always have a team of trusted advisors or mastermind group to call on for opinions, but in the end, it is the leader who makes the final decision, which is then fully supported whether the group actually agrees with it or not.
Unfortunately, humility is one of those leadership traits you do not see as frequently as you should. It is often perceived as a weakness when, in fact, it can be a tremendous asset. The humble leader rarely allows the power of their position to cloud their judgment. Leaders give themselves permission to be human! They know not just their strengths but their weaknesses, and understand that they cannot lead an organization in an evolving world without evolving themselves. By recognizing their own imperfections and focusing on their own personal growth, the humble leader creates an environment where others feel comfortable taking chances and making mistakes.
Leaders possess this capacity! They have the fortitude to overcome any obstacles, perceived or real, because of the strength of their mindset and vision. Leaders understand that failure is part of the process, and use the hardships as lessons on the path to greatness.
So which of these traits do you feel you were born with, and which have you either intentionally cultivated, or know that you'd need to in order to step fully into the leadership necessary to achieve your dreams?
Adapted from: Beth Allen Blog; 6/02/11