As I’ve written previously, not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and people can certainly be highly productive and successful without a full portfolio of leadership qualities. But if you’d like to be more of a leader than you presently feel yourself to be, rest assured you can definitely improve.
While it’s well-recognized that many leaders are born, quite a few others are made through study, effort, and self-examination.
I’ve already sketched out some leadership characteristics you can acquire in a previous post, and elsewhere. Now let’s cover a few more:
Leadership is not easy. If it were, we’d all be providing it, big time.
A major difficulty is that leadership involves a willingness to depart from the herd, often to strike out in an entirely unproven direction or take a chance on a risky proposition. Many times, the course of action you want others to follow will find bitter opposition from one or more people, perhaps because they want to lead in a different direction, or because they lack your courage.
Whatever the situation, your leadership ability grows when you strengthen your willingness to face opposition and accept long odds. The more courage you can muster in particular situations, the more readily you can offer your leadership. It also helps when you openly demonstrate and share your courageous attitude so others can absorb some of your inspiration and pump up their own willingness to take a few brave steps along with you.
Leadership is easier when you’re aiming for a specific target. But while some leadership goals may be fairly obvious – such as bringing your team to a championship, getting elected to office, teaching a subject-matter class, or growing a company – it’s also true there are many times when a leader envisions a goal that others generally don’t see.
I like the story of Walt Disney, who “saw” DisneyLand and DisneyWorld first in his mind’s eye and only later started his company on the road to building them.
The lesson here is not that leaders must have vision, but that vision can be a powerful step toward strengthening your leadership abilities. If you desire to develop your leadership, a good way forward is to think in terms of changes you’d like to see in the world.
Your envisioned changes can be large or small, short-term or long-term, one-person projects or pyramid-like in their need for large-group action. All we’re talking about here is developing a detailed vision for a project or goal you’d feel good about completing, one highly motivating to you.
Such a vision can become a wellspring of leadership for you.
Another way that leadership makes heavy demands involves the continuing need to overcome obstacles and resistance. In a great many circumstances, one big reason people are not already building your vision for “What Could Be” is simply that other paths are easier for them to follow.
Leading people will almost always bring you face to face with difficulties, unwanted surprises, accidents and setbacks, as well as last-minute heartbreaking roadblocks.
A powerful example is the Hillary Step. It’s the final obstacle to reaching the summit of Mount Everest. After climbing nearly 28,900 feet, explorers are faced with an imposing granite cliff that would be difficult to surmount even if it were at sea level. It’s a 40 foot vertical wall perched near the very top of the mountain, with climbers prevented from going around it by an 8,000 foot drop to its left and a 10,000 foot drop to its right.
It’s daunting, to say the least, and it’s a metaphor for some of the common travails of leadership.
Because there are so many hurdles in so many projects, leadership requires great gobs of resilience – enough to fight on against the great many roadblocks that will inevitably emerge as you try to lead people toward a goal.
There may also be moments when you lose track of the best way forward, forcing you to reevaluate, reconnoiter, and recalibrate the pathway from where you are to where you want to be.
As I’ve written elsewhere, including here, there are many techniques you can employ to persevere against adversity, but all of them require the will to do it. That willingness usually emerges from your character, and from the motivation you feel to reach your goal.
If you have the willingness, you can use your courage, vision, and resilience to lead in that direction.
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