Success as a Leader….it is as individual as We Are

Over the past decade, I have built a company committed to helping individuals, from all walks of life, become the most successful, inspirational, and authentic leaders possible. It has been a humbling privilege to learn from and contribute to their journeys. Recently, a senior leadership team, with whom I have been working, asked me for the ‘Readers Digest’ version of pointers to summarize much of the work we have done over the past few years. Thus, what follows is a synopsis of a few of the things I think help make a powerful, motivational, and impactful leader. This is certainly not an all-inclusive list; however, I do believe if we embrace these things, the rest will fall into place. Much of this has been highlighted in both my “Is This Seat Taken?” books through my own stories, and stories of other leaders who led by example through their own ‘late in life’ stories.

  1. It is not about you, it is 100% about others. As leaders, our #1 job is to help others reach their potential and to help them be the best they can be. This is not about doing their job for them. This is not about giving them empty praise to motivate them. It is 100% about tough love, challenging them to take risks, teaching them, and stretching them into their ‘learning zones’. It is about supporting them when they stump their toes, and shining a light on how/where they stumped their toes. It is about inspiring them and giving them the ever-needed B12 shot to keep striving, to pick themselves up when they have fallen, and to stand tall in the face of adversity and daunting goals.
  2. We must have a purposeful and powerful vision for how we wish to contribute, what our business and/or organization is about AND, most importantly, these must be ALIGNED. How do we do this? We get to know who we are – real, authentically, and NOT dictated by society or others’ opinions or perspectives. We embrace those things in which ‘we are good’. We are at our most powerful when we, and how we wish to contribute are ALIGNED. And alignment is when we love what we do, we are good at it, AND most importantly it is tied to something much greater than ourselves. When this happens – we have energy and ‘juice’ which flows from an inner place and is not tied to outside stimuli, money, status, titles, or rewards. Those perks may come later – yet inner ALIGNMENT is the fertile ground from which this happens.
  3. It is about building TRUST in you, and most importantly among one another. This is the single most important quality in a team… without TRUST nothing else has a firm foundation on which to build. Over the past number of years, when I engage with a team that is dysfunctional, it is 100% of time due to a lack of trust being cultivated within the team. The key is this: trust always – ALWAYS – starts with the leader. I personally have worked for leaders who have been passive aggressive, game-players, and lacking integrity in their thoughts, words, and deeds. The team does not stand a chance when a leader like this is in place. As leaders, we must be impeccable with our word. This means being honest in our feedback, our awareness of reality, and giving clear, unfiltered, communication to the team. One of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, highlights the 4 key mantras to live an aligned life – and to build an aligned team. Being impeccable with your word is just one of these four.
  4. As leaders, as a dear friend of mine once said, we must embody Integrity in everything we think, say, and do. His definition was: ‘standing behind your convictions regardless of the consequences’. This is easier said than done when the proverbial winds and rains come; however, to not stand firm and grounded defines weakness – as a leader and as a team. Our ‘brand’ and our reputation are products of what we consistently do…..not what we do on a ‘good day’ when the cameras are rolling.  Leaders run marathons not sprints.  We are most certainly being watched – all the time – so we must lead with that in mind and, as my father says, “Always do what is right. You will be able to sleep sounder, and you will be respected in the long term by living and leading with integrity”. Enough said.
  5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and thus, approachable. From my experience, supreme power comes from admitting what one doesn’t know, mistakes one has made, and basically just showing one’s vulnerability. At some point in our lives, we have all been the recipient of a ‘true confession’ from another. Typically, we extend a hand. We empathize. We offer support. A connection, on a different level, is made. A bridge is built between people. We learn from each other.Why don’t we see more of this in our professional playpens? Are we scared of being found out? Scared of losing our perceived position of strength? Scared our teams will see us as weak or not informed? Scared our boss with think even worse than that?! Well, my opinion is just the opposite. I believe that living in self-importance or self-anointed superiority shows just a mirage of strength. True strength and power comes when the leader is brave enough to admit their vulnerabilities. I have written many blogs and recorded several podcasts about the power of vulnerability… here to read further. 
  6. We must deliver the goods. Much has been written about the power of SMART goals – and yes, they can and do become magnificent guardrails for delivering the goods the organization expects. And the beauty of SMART goals is that they make the definition of organizational success CLEAR to the entire team. Once that ‘end game’ has been determined and the flag is planted – driving to that destination becomes a collective non-negotiable.

I hope this helps give a ‘road map’ on what to focus. What I know for sure is that this takes much self-observation, self-awareness, and hard work to become the leader we want to be AND it is 100% dependent upon how badly we want it.