Have you fallen prey to the mistaken belief that leadership is a natural, unteachable trait that some people have – but not you?
Well, I’m here to tell you that isn’t true!
Co-authoring the Huffington Post’s Africa’s Female Entrepreneurs series, and writing for the SheInspiresHer website, has confirmed what I already knew – that most of us have leadership potential. But not everyone believes it, develops it, and leverages it. This raises questions like:
Are you are already modeling a new prototype for effective leadership, but are not aware that you are?
Why do so many of us minimize our accomplishments and undervalue our worth?
Why do so few of us apply the word leader to the role we play (whatever that role may be) and leverage it?
Is it linked to self esteem, popular opinion or our cultural conditioning?
While some cultures and environments are undoubtedly more fertile for nurturing and validating leaders, there is plenty of evidence that they can spring from the most unlikely sources.
It all comes down to what influences cause you to pursue a given goal and what keeps driving you to achieve it. Sometimes it’s a desire to excel; to prove yourself, or it can simply be necessity, when a comfort zone gets really uncomfortable, or downright dangerous. It can also be restlessness or an all consuming desire to right a wrong; to make a difference or promote something that you value highly.
In case you’re undervaluing your leadership role, here’s a checklist of famous quotes to help you gain clarity:
1. High Risk Tolerance
“Business people need to understand the psychology of risk more than the mathematics of risk” – Paul Gibbons
Successful entrepreneurs don’t hide in the shadows, letting fear hold them back. They often have high risk immunity. They’re not welded to safety zones. They have the courage to do whatever it takes to succeed. They grab and run with opportunities when they appear.
2. Resilience and Agility
“There’s no such thing as ruining your life. Life’s a pretty resilient thing, it turns out.” – Sophie Kinsella
Like the law of the wild, successful people know that if you stumble or fall, getting back on your feet quickly is imperative. Many inspirational leaders have turned business and fiscal agility into an art form. They are masters of change management.
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days” – Zig Ziglar
Successful leaders are good at prioritizing people, tasks and goals in order of importance, and change these priority filters regularly. They are willing to risk rejection or disapproval by drawing firm boundaries. Their ability to focus may not always make them popular, but it does make them effective. They don’t get easily distracted and they’re selective about where they invest their energy.
“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.” – William Jennings Bryan
Though some of us innately have more than others, most acquire confidence along the way, by consistently expanding their fear fences – again and again. Confidence is gained from embracing criticism, instead of being destroyed by it; processing it with the head, not the heart. It comes from not relying on excuses or blaming others.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett
In order to be trusted, you need to have integrity. Leaders do what’s right. When you value yourself, your products or services, and your team’s ability to deliver, others will too. When leaders mess up or don’t know something, they admit it—make it right, and learn to do it better. They know that nothing damages credibility faster than excuses, blame or bullshit.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do” – Steve Jobs
Leaders love and believe in what they do. They can even be obsessive, pushing to do it bigger, better and greater. Their passion generates the momentum to keep going when the going gets tough. They lead by example not because they feel they should, but because it is a way of life.
“Failure is success if we learn from it” – Malcolm Forbes
Innovators aren’t too concerned with what others think about them. They use failure as fuel. They trust their own inner compass, rather than the opinions of others. While others waste energy playing it safe and fitting in, leaders embrace change. The courage to innovate takes the “im” out of impossible.
“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks” – Warren Buffett
Successful leaders have above average reserves of commitment and tenacity. They don’t give up the moment the going gets tough. But they also know when to have grit and when to quit.
“Unless you’re authentic, you’re not really leading anyone” – John Ryan, Centre for Creative Leadership
True leaders walk their talk and that’s how they earn the respect of others. People look to a leader during times of uncertainty and change for reassurance and security. You can’t engender trust and buy-in from your team and colleagues if you’re not 100% you consistently.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” – Bill Gates
Good leaders are constantly growing, learning and adjusting. Goals are not static. Leaders love to learn and discover new, more effective ways of doing things. They’re curious, are unafraid to question the status quo, and have a hunger to constantly improve.
“Communication must be HOT. That’s Honest, Open and Two-way” – Dan Oswald
Communication is a balancing act. How good are you at transferring what’s in your mind to someone elses? How good are you at customizing your communications to get the result you want? Effective leadership requires customizing your approach to fit, in order to avoid unnecessary conflict or misunderstandings. Does what you say, match what you do?
“Accountability breeds response-ability” – Steven Covey
It’s a lot easier to make excuses or assign blame than to hold yourself accountable. But it also keeps you powerless. Taking radical responsibility is easy when things are going well. But a true leader has the courage to be accountable when the sh*t hits the fan. It requires brutal honesty. A victim mentality has no place in a leadership role.
13. Emotional Intelligence
“If you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in other people” – Daniel Goleman
Emotionally intelligent leaders are good at self-management. They relate well to others and are skilled at conflict resolution and negotiation. They handle difficult, highly charged situations well. They have good impulse control, and know their strengths and weaknesses well. When faced with a crisis or a challenge, they instinctively step back, and evaluate the options objectively. They know where they can influence change—so they don’t waste energy fighting battles they can’t win.
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you” – Bob Proctor
Good leaders employ the power of endorsing themselves and their team regularly. They know that ignoring, taking for granted or constantly criticizing kills motivation and confidence. As a leader, you’re automatically a mentor, whether you know it or not. You understand that everything you say and do has a direct impact on those around you. You know that the most powerful way to change people is to change yourself, and you strive to set an example.
“Its not just words. Actions express priorities” – Mahatma Gandhi
Leaders favor action over bragging or wishful thinking, and are prepared to take the necessary risks to make things happen. They are result-oriented and live by the creed that actions speak much louder than words.
“When you know what you want, and you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it – Jim Rohn
Leaders don’t say “oh bugger it, let’s just drift and see where we land”. They’re very clear on and committed to their goals, because they know you get lost when you’re not. They constantly evaluate, and where necessary adapt these goals to align with the outcome they want.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success – Henry Ford
As a leader, trusting your team to turn your vision into action indicates confidence in your ability to pick your inner circle with care. Successful leaders have a talent for identifying the strengths of their team, nurturing them, capitalizing on them, and keeping them motivated towards a common vision.
What if these leadership gurus had been interviewed ten or twenty years earlier?
They probably wouldn’t have believed they had it in them either. The great news is that all these super-star attributes can be learned and developed. But that’s not going to happen if you hide your potential in the shadows, or give in to your fears. It takes courage. Are you leveraging the leader within you?