Are you a leader? What do I even mean by “leader”?
Everyone has the potential to be a leader. When I reference this term, I am not only talking about the CEO of a company or the manager of a unit. It is just as important to be a leader of your team of colleagues, or, in your circle of personal relationships.
Consider this: In high schools across America, the top tier of students apply each year to be in the National Honor Society. NHS is the pinnacle of academic achievement. To be accepted in a chapter, students must display a trifecta of academics, leadership and service. But, what happens when being head of student council isn’t available? Or, being the captain of the ball team?
Sometimes leadership occurs during the quiet moments amid big decisions. Sometimes leadership is saying “no” when everyone else says “yes”. Leadership is recognizing that the face in the mirror is but a player on a stage. It is recognizing a vision for greatness. Those students? Their adapted forms of leadership include stepping in when someone is bullied and redirecting classes that are chatting instead of learning. Leadership is not even about consciously leading; it’s about continuously molding yourself and molding others. Remember that momentum we talked about? It is the most important part of leadership. Momentum is about how quickly those around you respond to your changes. It’s about how quickly they jump on that train with you.
When you grow yourself, either others grow around you or they grow away from you. Those that grow with you? They in turn, do the same for those around them. Leadership is a wheel of success that picks up momentum as others join in.
Look up important leaders in the 20th century and Mahatma Gandhi will show up as one of the top leaders. He led his country to freedom from colonial rule. Mahatma Gandhi’s characteristics? He was resilient. He was knowledgeable. He had incredible people skills. He was motivational. And, most important, he led by example. Know who you are. Know how you are perceived. Are you a natural-born mentor or do you judge those around you? Do you encourage others when a client goes with a different company, a deal falls through, or when they’ve just scored a major contract? You must know how to influence the people around you and how you’re already influencing them. Open yourself up to the opinion of others. Elicit feedback. Be open to honest reflection. Define the type of leader you want to be and then start being that leader. Encourage, support, mentor and help. Leadership is to lead each against division. Leaders encourage cohesion, not divisiveness. You will influence others most effectively if you influence yourself first. To be able to influence those around you, it helps to know how they think, how they act, and what makes them tick. Know what’s important to them and how they can relate to a topic in their own lives.
Great leaders? They influence through delivery. They demonstrate what they preach. They walk the walk.
They ask good questions. Even more, they listen to the answers. What are good questions? Sometimes they are the ones that cause your team to scratch their heads. The point of good questions or tough questions is to cause reflection and make them dig deep.