Recent current events got me thinking about what truly makes a strong, powerful, and trusted leader in the world. For the purposes of this blog, I will leave discussion about politicians up to CNN, Fox News, and Saturday Night Live. Instead, I will focus on defining leadership abilities and explain how you become a leader in your own life—at work, at home, in the classroom, and in your community.
Why? Because great leaders inspire great change. And let’s get real—we could all use some of that.
I decided to do a little research to find out what people think great leadership consists of. I discovered that not everyone has the same list. In fact, I’ve been getting a little flack for how “intense” and “demanding” my definition is. However, everything special or extraordinary I ever produced in my life, came on the heels of a dare or by overcoming some sort of fear. So, what the heck, I dare you to define leadership as boldly as I do, and then go for it!
WHAT MAKES A GREAT LEADER?
- You have a defined purpose. Your vision is locked into your gut and you know exactly who you are and what you want to say.
- You walk your talk.
- You talk and talk. You demand to be heard and want to be followed.
- Your mission aligns to a higher purpose.
- You set an example. You’ve endured something, publicly, to turn your ordinary into extraordinary.
- You are transparent. You don’t hide things. People are allowed to know you, warts and all.
- You master your own mind and keep excuses at bay.
After reading the above, do you feel that you are living your true mission? Do you know people like this? Sure, it’s a stringent, impressive, and not easily achievable list. However, if you’ve got any interest, like me, in its pursuit, I’ve put together a few pointers below to set you on the right track. Yes, YOU can step up and become a powerful and purposeful leader in your life.
BUTCHER YOUR CHICKEN
Being a leader means people will look at you, watch you more closely and yes, judge you. There is no way around it. Many of us are fearful of being judged and thus manage what we say. But, you cannot be a chicken and a great leader at the same time. If you are afraid of being judged, or worried about what people think about you, you will never lead a proud and confident life.
Do note, if you are judging your bosses, spiritual leaders, or yoga teachers, it probably means you want their job and think you could do it better, but are too chicken to admit it. The reason we fear being judged is because we know how strongly we judge others. Understand and accept that you are going to be judged and instead, busy yourself with setting standards that YOU want to meet … and then meet them.
OWN YOUR CRAP
Now, we all make mistakes and have negative qualities. It’s hard for anyone to admit when he or she is wrong, but it’s especially hard when you are the leader and you have to admit it up and down the pecking order in front of everyone. At our company, we make telling on ourselves a common practice, but it’s still hot-in-the-face-worthy work. And, we recognize how unique this culture is to be so inviting and forgiving. In most communities, admitting you’ve been a jerk is a big risk and pride prevents you from doing it, even if it would be the quickest way to resolve conflict, upgrade a system, and/or improve your ability to lead.
For example, a while back, I told a coworker that I thought I could do something better than she could. It turned out I was wrong. Now, as long as I didn’t own that “truth,” I still believed I could do it better. I’m sure you can imagine how much I did not want to admit out loud that disgusting judgment. But I did!
Whenever I own my crap, as soon as I say it out loud, its validity is now in question. And communication and leadership can finally be restored. As the words are vocalized and hit the air, it’s as if something changes (like iron oxidizing into rust) and the words become absurd. We can all get back to work and I can go back to leading. Not from a high horse above others, but from a place grounded in my own integrity. I know I’m not perfect, and as a leader, I made the promise to always seek out my weaknesses and mistakes and own them.
Telling the truth and owning what doesn’t work about you keeps you trustworthy and safe to those around you.
EVEN THE LONE RANGER HAD TONTO
Great leaders are not controlling or ‘Lone Rangers.’ They know when to ask for help and delegate. They are team players who let others rise up around them. I can sometimes be a baby at this level of leadership; I like trying to do everything myself, but it never works out for me. I end up getting overwhelmed, start dropping balls, and losing the trust of others. I now have promises about delegating tasks to employees and communicating when I need help. This brings us closer together and builds collective trust among the team.
Care to care and join me?
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Laurie Gerber is a Senior Coach and Co-President of Handel Group® Life Coaching. For over 15 years, Laurie has led international events and private coaching courses. She has appeared on MTV’s True Life, A&E’s The Marriage Test, Dr. Phil and TODAY.
Image courtesy of TK Hammonds.