Leadership is the most important need in our society and organizations alike. In my opinion everyone should define what leadership means to them and it is for the individual to decide if they are successful in meeting that definition or not. I would suggest identify the leaders who have impacted you and find out how they led their teams. In my opinion leadership is ability to be stay inspired and inspire others to action. Leaders help others perform even when they don’t feel like doing it. My leadership philosophy consists of 3 elements it is about having a vision, ability to inspire others and leading by example.
I believe the recipe of leadership can be baked with the following ingredients. Here is my A – Z of Leadership.
A for Attitude: Attitude is the first requirement to be a great leader. A leader’s attitude is contagious and spreads like wild fire across the organization. Jack Welch has a 4E formula which is having high energy, ability to energize, execute and having the edge. A leader needs to be personally energetic first and then they have to be able to energize others. All this boils down to the attitude of the leader.
B for Boldness: Be bold with a touch of audacity. One of the examples of this is Steve Jobs decision to go ahead with the Apple Stores concept. In fact one of the comments from Business Week at that time was “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work.” Despite all this Steve Jobs had the audacity to proceed with his vision and see ultimate success. This is truly boldness in action.
C for Character: Ultimately your success as a leader boils down to the confidence people have in your abilities and their trust in you as a leader. All failure in leadership boils down to lack of trust. The first step towards great character is absolutely honesty in all your dealings with everyone in the organization. As it has been often said leadership is not a popularity contest and a strong character allows the leader to be taking tough decisions when the situation demands it.
D for Determination: As Napoleon Hill said “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” True success happens only when we have a burning desire and determination of something we want to achieve. The key is the desire has to be your own and not something someone else wants for you. There will be setbacks when you have a strong vision but if you have determination you can follow through to success.
E for Enthusiasm: As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Your success will directly be a result of the enthusiasm you have for your vision and the actions you take to achieve that vision. There is no charisma without enthusiasm. As documented in Inc. Magazine back in the 1981 cover story “When Steve Jobs speaks it is with “gee-whiz” enthusiasm of someone who sees the future and is making sure it works.”
F for Foresight: The ability to see into the future is something only the leader can do. The ability to anticipate crisis situations and take necessary preventive action is one of the hall marks of a true leader. As Jim Collins and Morten Hansen say in Great By Choice “Keep asking the question how much time before the risk profile changes.”
G for Gratitude: If you want to enjoy your success then you need to be grateful with what you have. Staying grateful helps you have joy which is one of the keys to a successful life. Writing down everything that we are grateful for is a great starting point towards all the happiness we desire. When you are peaceful with who you are you can lead your team with greater focus.
H for Hope: I like this quote from Tom Bodett “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Only when we have a compelling future vision can we be truly successful. Having hope is a great antidote to fear and worry. Of course hope alone is not enough but when married with hard work it can be dynamite. As Napoleon said “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
I for Inspiring: In my opinion a leader’s first responsibility is to be inspired and the second is the ability to inspire others. If you are able to inspire others their work will also be first class. Inspiration is oxygen to the soul. The reason there is disengagement in the work place is lack of inspiration. Once you inspire others to action work that seems insurmountable gets done.
J for Journey: Life is not a destination; it is a journey to be enjoyed all the way. It is how we bounce back from seeming setbacks that truly measure our heart for exceptional leadership. The journey is an adventure and an example of this is the life of Steve Jobs. He got fired from the company he founded and still managed to make a great comeback. It just shows to anything can happen but we have to be committed to the journey of life. Leadership requires a certain toughness that cannot be taught but it can be learned.
K for Kindness: Be kind to everyone you meet. Everyone has enough problems on their plate and your kindness could be the best experience they have had for that day. Kindness improves our mood and also those around us. “Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference.” Kevin Heath. Leadership is all about getting the most out of your people. A kind leader is a blessing for the people whom they lead.
L for Lead by Example: All of leadership ultimately boils down to the leadership philosophy of the leader. If you want your team to be energetic you need to be energetic. Leadership begins with the leader being absolutely leading with the way by setting an amazing example of honesty, courage, integrity and competency. Leading by example will ensure you have followers irrespective of your position.
M for Management: I don’t know why there has been such a separation of management and leadership. Of course everyone wants to be known as a leader and we have never heard anyone called a world manager. However I don’t think you can go far as a leader without any management skills. Management is the ability to carry out the vision set by the leader and execute flawlessly getting the most out of everyone in the team. It is imperative that as a leader you develop your management skills if you want to be known as someone who gets things done. Here is my article on 9 ways to be a great manager 9 Ways to become a Great Manager.
N for Noticeable: For you to be successful you have to be noticeable in your organization. You need to sell yourself with your talents and make people notice you. As Steve Martin said “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Unless you show others what you are capable of nobody is going to know. I think we should learn to sell ourselves not in an abrupt manner but a classy manner. This requires practice but this will pay off in spades. A leader needs to be visible and unless they are noticeable there is no way they can get people to do things which they normally would not have done without their intervention.
O for Optimism: The key to leadership lies in the optimism of the leader. It’s not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens to us that matters. For example Steve Jobs believed in his products even when he was the only one with the vision. He was not even sure if it will be accepted in the market but he showed undying optimism to see success till the end. Even in his professional nadir he showed enduring optimism and show what one can achieve with optimism and belief.
P for Peace of mind: Ultimately you will enjoy your success only if you have peace of mind. Without it no amount of outside success will be satisfying. You can attain peace of mind when you are grateful for what you have and don’t have a need to constantly compare with others. Set your own sails and go forward confidently in the direction of your dreams. Don’t allow critics to rob your peace of mind. Only when a leader is totally peaceful inside they can lead their teams to market success. If you are having internal issues you cannot lead your team effectively. Don’t do anything that will rob your peace of mind.
Q for Quality: Vince Lombardi put it beautifully when he said “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Go for quality in every area of your focus and you will be successful as a leader. Once the leader sets the example everyone in the team will follow as well.
R for Restlessness: Jim Collins says that deep restlessness is the key quality of a leader. For example Winston Churchill and Steve Jobs both were deeply restless. You have to be slightly discontent with the status quo to really bring change to whichever team or organization you lead.
S for Self-Esteem: Self-esteem is the cornerstone of a healthy leader. It is important to be comfortable in your own skin. Self-esteem is defined as your reputation with yourself. You are unique and have talents that can help you succeed. The key to self-esteem is to write down the qualities you admire in yourself. Maybe you have passion or discipline, and by acknowledging your positive traits you can enhance your self-esteem. When setbacks occur while you may feel bad it doesn’t reduce your self-esteem. Write down all your successes till now and keep track of your accomplishments. This surely enhances self-esteem. When you have high self-esteem you generally feel more positive about life and do better at work. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale
T for Temperament: One of the best examples of a leader with good temperament is Rahul Dravid. He treats both victory and defeat with the same attitude. This requires enormous fortitude and you cannot imagine a well-rounded leader who is always fretting and fuming. As Jim Collins mentioned in his seminal work “Good to Great” Level 5 leaders all displayed humility while having a ferocious resolve. The best example of that is Darwin Smith who said “I never stopped being qualified for the job.”
U for Unique: You are unique and there is no one else like you in this world. This uniqueness enables you to provide services that enable you to stand out and show case your talent. Keep developing your talents and understand where your strengths lie. If you understand your uniqueness and go forward in developing the required skills success will follow. At the same time since leadership is a contact sport you need to really appreciate the uniqueness of everyone in your team.
V for Victory: Victory is what everyone wants in business and personal life. You have to take a no prisoners attitude towards your vision and go for broke. There are no guarantees that the vision will be achieved but taking calculated risks in the direction of your ultimate goal will ensure your ultimate victory.
W for Well-being: Ultimately your well-being is very important to your overall success as a leader. Unless you are healthy you cannot lead your team with energy. Take care of your health by exercising, eating right and most importantly getting adequate sleep. Only when you take care of yourself physically and mentally you can enjoy the fruits of your leadership.
X for Extreme focus: Leadership requires extreme focus on one unwavering aim and committing all your energy to ensure everyone is focused on that particular area. This quote from Orison Swett Marden addresses this “The giants of the race have been men of concentration, who have struck sledge-hammer blows in one place until they have accomplished their purpose. The successful men of today are men of one overmastering idea, one unwavering aim, and men of single and intense purpose.”
Y for Youthful: Being youthful is a state of mind. As a lot of people say age is just a number. Don’t allow your age to restrict yourself from dreaming big for your organization and going after what you want your leadership to stand for. Examples of people still achieving at older ages are all around us. Two of them whom I admire a lot are Warren Buffet and Henry Kissinger who is still writing books at the age of 92. This quote from General Douglas MacArthur hits the message home “Youth is not entirely a time of life; it is a state of mind. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals.. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.”
Z for Zest: Finally you need to have an undying zest for your vision. If you love your life and live it to the fullest you will inspire others to follow your example. Here is the final quote from Normal Vincent Peale “The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, and productivity. You can be, too.”
To conclude all of us can define what leadership means to us. Leadership is of paramount importance and even if robots take over a lot of our jobs we can be rest assured that great leaders will always be needed to take us to new frontiers.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.