Great Leadership Starts Within
True leadership is both a choice and a personal journey. Any of us can be promoted into leadership roles, but it is by conscious choice that some of us accept the responsibility to go beyond simply being in charge. Those of us who carefully consider the implications of our decision to lead recognize our commitment to a journey that requires personal sacrifice and continuous learning.
When a new company leader is named, her or his initial learning may be focused on tactical matters, like the organization’s operations and customer profile. In the long-term, however, a leader’s effectiveness is dependent on clarity of vision, a commitment to ongoing development and the ability to utilize strengths at opportune moments for the benefit of the organization.
As leaders, we owe it to ourselves and our organizations to seek out and engage in ongoing professional development. The speed of business, changing demographics and challenges to keep pace with demands of customers are different today than even five years ago.
Understand what drives you
A critical, yet often underappreciated, predictor of a company’s success is the leader’s vision, which is invariably informed by personal experiences and beliefs.
It requires candid reflection and honest self-assessment to uncover the core purpose and passion that drives you as a leader.
Clarity around vision and purpose is critical for success. It ensures alignment between personal satisfaction and the organization’s expectations.
In fact, misalignment between a leader’s core vision and the organization’s often leads to mutual disappointment and discontent. Consider the leader whose personal vision is driven by being a “builder.” As a builder, this type of leader finds excitement and measures success through growth initiatives, innovation and new business development. Placing that leader into a role whose organizational focus is on stabilizing infrastructure by cutting costs and reallocating resources in support of short-term initiatives is likely to be frustrating for everyone involved.
Never stop growing
Just as leaders have a responsibility to develop the talent of their teams, we also own the responsibility of continuing our own professional and personal development.
While it is important to recognize the relationship between the skills and experiences that have contributed to our past success, our organization will not measure our current value solely on past performance. Rather, leaders are evaluated and selected based upon their potential for guiding the organization into the future. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
Seize your opportunities
Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa represent a brief list of some our most admired and respected leaders. Each rose to a level of greatness through his or her actions at times when leadership was needed. Each owned his or her leadership responsibility, and through a lifetime of learning, self-reflection and then action, contributed in meaningful ways, staying true to his or her purpose and passion.
In short, notoriety as a great leader is directly related to one’s personal character and the ability to tap into the right strengths at the right moments, inspiring others to achieve the unexpected.
Leadership is a journey
It is our obligation as leaders to make investments to stay ahead of obsolescence and support the evolution of our organizations. There is a wealth of new information – from improvements in business approaches to personal strategies – that are proving valuable to even the most seasoned leaders.
The role of leader comes with expectation and commitment: to be successful, you must delve deep. Seek to understand what drives you – your purpose, passion and vision. Commit to a lifelong learning strategy to ensure you expand your base of knowledge and associated skillsets. This will help position you to respond to your ever-changing environment. Take action, and be the leader your organization needs, now and into the future.
Originally published in BizTimes Milwaukee in Leadership Column, April 16, 2018.