“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
— John Quincy Adams
Everyone is a leader, either by choice or default. We are all leaders in one way or another because we influence someone. We can’t put leadership “out there” or make it somebody else’s job. Each of us has the responsibility to lead, inspire and impact those around us.
One of the most powerful things we can do in this lifetime is to grow our leadership skills. Therefore, it is important that we learn what it takes to be a great leader. When we think about leaders that have inspired us, the qualities become apparent.
We often think of leaders as being dynamic and charismatic individuals that call each of us to follow in commanding, compelling ways. However, oftentimes-great leaders are more quiet and reserved and call each of us to action in subtler, more indirect ways.
Leadership is not the private reserve of a few. It is a process ordinary people use when bringing forth the best from themselves and others. True leaders will help others to not just see themselves as they are, but also what they can become.
Leadership development is a lifetime journey, not a quick trip. Leadership can really be thought of as training and personal growth. It takes focus, time and a lot of effort to become the great leader we may envision. Leadership and learning go hand in hand.
To achieve a true leadership style, we must be able to develop certain traits. The Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group recently noted the following traits as key characteristics of a leader:
• Honesty. Display sincerity, integrity, and candor in all your actions. Deceptive behavior will not inspire trust.
• Competent. Your actions should be based on reason and moral principles. Do not make decisions based on childlike emotional desires or feelings.
• Forward-looking. Set goals and have a vision of the future. The vision must be owned throughout the organization. Effective leaders envision what they want and how to get it. They habitually pick priorities stemming from their basic values.
• Inspiring. Display confidence in all that you do. By showing endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire others to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.
• Intelligent. Read, study, and seek challenging assignments.
• Fair-minded. Show fair treatment to all people. Prejudice is the enemy of justice. Display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.
• Broad-minded. Seek out diversity.
• Courageous. Have the perseverance to accomplish a goal, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Display a confident calmness when under stress.
• Straightforward. Use sound judgment to make good decisions at the right time.
• Imaginative. Make timely and appropriate changes in your thinking, plans, and methods. Show creativity by thinking of new and better goals, ideas, and solutions to problems. Be innovative!
As you can see nothing revealed here is shocking, but does require practice and a great deal of time. So what do we do with this information? Refocus on our core values and spend time becoming a better person and the leadership traits will manifest themselves.
Every now and then, we need to stop and look back to see who is following us and ask ourselves: What does this person need me to be today: a coach, a teacher, a decision maker, a supporter, a listener or a servant? Great leadership is all encompassing.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from northern Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.