I know exactly what sets the very greatest leaders far, far above the rest.
But before I reveal all, let’s pause the constant quest for something ‘new’ on leadership and establish two very important facts without which you are simply wasting your time.
In fact number 1 it’s time to give yourself some credit. You have experienced leadership, both good and bad, throughout your whole life – parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, partners, bosses. They have taught you more than any MBA.
FACT 1 – you know a lot about leadership already
So do some digging into your own experiences and see what you can find rather than continually searching elsewhere. If you are near pen and paper that’s ideal – but if you are out and about then as soon as you have read this blog, start by ticking the following off on your fingers:
- Think of five people who really inspired you.
- What was it, specifically, about them you found so inspiring?
- Using them as your inspiration, choose just one thing you can focus on to inspire others
Now, what about the really bad cases? Hard as it seems, we actually learn more about leadership from a bad example than a good one so make sure you repeat the exercise for them, asking yourself what it was, specifically, about them that left you uninspired and unmotivated. Now flip it and decide on one more thing you can focus on to inspire others.
Finally, think about the other stuff you have learned over the years and pull it all together – what will you absolutely make sure you do or don’t do? Why not pull it into your own personal list of leadership do’s and don’ts? As you create a list like this it’s easy to see leadership is not a distant, abstract concept. It is practical, and living – it’s not about text books and research papers, it’s not about models and theories, and it’s not about rousing speeches and clever strategies. It’s about the impact we have in day to day life, at work and in our homes. Impact that makes a difference – for better, or for worse.
Look at your list and choose just one more thing. That’s three things you can focus on to become a more inspirational leader. You simply need to decide what you want to focus on – and then do something about it.
Which brings us smoothly onto fact number 2
FACT 2 – you are not doing everything you already know about leadership
When it comes to inspiring others, the chances are you are doing some of it all of the time, some of it some of the time and some of it none of the time! What comes next is simple – all you need to do to make a step change as a leader is work on doing what you know all of the time.
Think back on all the lessons you have learned over the years through good leadership – and bad leadership. Notice that most of the changes you would need to make are really quite small.
You don’t need to make grand gestures. You don’t need a personality change. No frontal lobotomies are required. You don’t need to change everything you do. A few careful tweaks acted out consistently will have infinitely more impact than a thousand seminars, books and articles that were enjoyed but never implemented.
Yes, there is always more to learn, and that’s a good thing, but don’t gather it up just to pour it into a leaky bucket. Too many people talk about what they need to do without actually doing anything.
Don’t be one of them.
So before you get lost in an endless list of email, stop and think about what you already know – especially those five people who inspired you, and the five who did anything but – and make sure you are crystal clear on three actions you can take to make a real difference. Not vague aspirational statements – but specific actions that you will commit to putting in place over the next 14 days.
Then the most important step of all – is to do them! Because that’s what sets the very greatest leaders far, far above the rest. At some point they stopped getting ready – and decided to act.