Most people have at one time or another been a leader on a sport’s team, class project, or chaired a club they were in. The term “natural born leader” readily applies: You’ve got charisma, machismo, that something… extra – a spark, a way about you that makes others take notice and follow your lead. Congrats! Most proactive and driven young people have some form of this talent. Then, over time, it sort of seems to… vanish.
Like any gift or ability, it takes nurturing to make it grow. Great Leaders (capital L!) “watch tape” of themselves and learn WHY they’re so good and how to get even better. This requires a high degree of self awareness, which, when combined with a desire for continuous learning, becomes quite a powerful asset.
To be any kind of a Leader, you’ll need to make sure you’re doing 3 fundamental things:
1. Inspire People – Everyone wants to be a part of something greater than themselves’ and it doesn’t matter if it’s selling ice cubes to eskimos or toppling a despotic regime – give them a vision of where they want to go – where YOU want to go – and why it’s so great there! A common purpose is a flag to rally around!
2. Communicate – Does everyone know the vision? Is it easily digestable? if you can’t explain your vision in less than 10 seconds then the answer is probably “no.” Give people a vision of a hill in battle and tell them how, with their help, you’re all going to get over that hill. People will pick up that flag and run into cannon fire if you’ve done it right.
3. Empower and Encourage – Free your people to solve their own day-to-day problems. Remove obstacles to their success, aim to make the road just a little smoother! Celebrate victories, however small, and be lavish in your praise for excellent work. It costs nothing but your caring -which is all people really want at the end of the day.
These principles are only as good as the person who practices them. Are you kind? Devoted? Do you posses integrity and honesty down to your core? Are you flexible without breaking? Do you stand for something? Do you truly desire to see those in your charge succeed and move on to better things? Can you put the team above yourself? Can you see the best in those you lead, and work to get that ‘best’ out of them? To get them to see it as well?
A great Leader can only become so through a deeply authentic commitment to their people. Don’t baby them, but do lead and protect them. Don’t make excuses for them, rather help them to keep from making excuses themselves. Finally, let them lead you from time to time – you’ll be surprised to see where they take you!