Follow the Leader…


Leadership: [lee·der·ship], noun.

1. The position or function of a leader; a person who guides or directs a group

2. The ability to lead

Synonyms: influence, command, effectiveness

What is your definition of leadership?  Think about it….it’s a pretty complex and dynamic concept, and while it is difficult to put into words, there is a synergy in all of the things that make up the idea of a good leader.  I asked around, and the answers I got each apply in their own place and circumstance and time:

–         A leader is a visionary

–         A leader is passionate and dedicated to their cause

–         A leader is someone who inspires others

–         A leader is someone who accomplishes great things and creates change

–         A leader is someone who has followers

Whatever your definition of leadership, there are a few key qualities that religious, political, entertainment, moral and historical leaders have embraced:

–         They’ve had to work really really hard

–         They’ve had something they believed in and were passionate about

–         They didn’t give up, even in desperate or difficult circumstances

–         They were inspirational to their followers

–         They embrace some degree of power

–         They had influence

Anyone can be placed in a “position” of management or leadership, but title does not a leader make.  True leadership most often emerges and is recognized when things are tough.  It is easy to lead when everyone is happy and healthy and all systems are in perfect working order.  Leadership (influence, command and effectiveness) is what we need when we long for direction, peace or change…These are times when the person in “power” is who we turn to for our cue, but know that power and influence are 2 very different things, and the following, respect, inspiration and dedication of organizations, nations, religions and people are born of influence…

Influence is the most important factor in leadership.  Without influence, one cannot hope to create change or passion or loyalty in others.  But, how do you build influence? You build influence by building relationship, and you build relationship by building trust.  And that’s not easy.

In order to build influence, relationship and trust, you have to connect with people at the levels of beliefs and values.  When people reflect on the things that they most respect and value about the great leaders in their lives, rarely do they speak of IQ or bottom line or the number of widgets (metaphorical or literal) they created in a week.  Instead they speak of qualities, beliefs, attitudes and character.  They speak about someone who cares for the cause, but also cares for the people behind the cause.

In order to build trust and therefore inspire others to influence and be influenced, you have to know them as a person and individual with ideas and feelings and a life. Trust me.  You have to be honest and genuine and work hard and set a good example.  You have to do the right thing even if it is the hard thing. You are both stalwart and vulnerable (never underestimate the power and leadership that lies in vulnerability, see TED TALK “the Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown ).  You make mistakes and you forgive others when they do the same.  You take time to listen, understand and respond.  You are patient.  You take responsibility and blame as needed.  You have courage.  You seek knowledge in all things, and you recognize the achievements of others in all things.  You reflect on the decisions you make for yourself and you consider others in those decisions.  Think of all of the great leaders you know, and even the people you hold in high regard and would follow  if they asked it of you…..they have these qualities. How they implement them may change, but they connect and value relationship as a part of task management and accomplishment.  If you have been given the gift of leadership, use it wisely and well, for it is a powerful honour to be given or to gain.

I have two favorite leadership quotes. Let them inspire you in your guidance of others to connect and create trust and authenticity.  The first is “connect before direct” (that’s one of my own and it has served me well with everyone I meet, teach and lead) and the second is by (and in honor of) Nelson Mandela: