Monday, July 7, 2014

Leadership is About You

What is leadership anyway?  A position?  A title?  Leading an organization or team or community?  Is it the senior executives or c-suite?  Does it entail having followers?

 Peter Drucker says a leader has followers.  Robin Sharma says a leader has no title.

And what about how to be a leader?  Do you need to be authoritative?  Aggressive?  Decisive?  Is leadership about ensuring your team of people are performing and providing incentives, rewards, or even discipline?  Must a leader be in command?  In charge?

Some say leaders are visionary or they empower and influence others.

Any of these definitions can be right.  And there are more to add.  The common thread is the leader him or herself.

Leadership is about the person.

A great leader - whether they are visionary, empowering, influential, decisive, or commanding - leads him or herself.  Leadership style is something else.

The first step in any kind of leadership is knowing yourself.  Self awareness is essential for excellence in leadership.

The next step is leading yourself to be the best you can be.  That means investigating your own thoughts and feelings.  A leader can not have focus, clarity, passion, and compassion (essentials for excellence in leadership) without knowing who they are.  How can you be clear with others when you don't know what you are feeling or why you are feeling a certain way?  Purposefully deciding to be the best you can be means making decisions that are in your best interest for your wellness and for others' wellness.  It involves compassion and empathy.

Self-investigation is key for excellent leadership.  And my definition of leadership has nothing to do with followers.  It is leading your life.  Leading your self.  Leading what you do.  Leading who you are.  This translates to leading your family, community, organization, team, or project.

You get to know yourself by getting quiet.  Slowing down.  Investigating.  Exploring.  Being open to what comes up and being with it - no matter what it is.

Every individual in an organization needs to be a leader for organizational success.

If you want leaders in your organization, give them the space to know themselves.  Allow them to develop their emotional intelligence, which includes intrapersonal and interpersonal skills.  Sure, give them the tools and knowledge to coach and manage well.  Put them through a leadership development program.  But if you are not willing to support their self-awareness and emotional intelligence growth, much of the leadership development will be lost.  Self-awareness is the foundation for good leadership.

The greatest leaders lead themselves, and people follow not because the leader makes them follow... but because the followers want to follow.  

Leaders may indeed have followers.  But influence comes from the leader's ability to be compassionate and be authentically concerned for the followers' well-being.  This ability comes from practice and a continual curiosity into who they are.  The key to learning this is to slow down, become aware of the  mind-body-spirit connection, and learn how to respond versus react.  It is not fluff... it is leadership.

Lead yourself.  The rest will follow.

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