“I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man.” Alexander Hamilton
Over the past 54 weeks, we have covered a lot of material. I cannot profess to be a master of any of it. I readily admit that I am flawed and naturally prone to sin. This makes it impossible to execute on all these great leadership practices on a consistent basis.
Rather, I try to make myself aware of the traits that great leaders exhibit. I try to ensure I take pause when I need to. I remind myself how humble I need to be and how “not great” I am.
I believe that great leaders recognize the importance and the impact of the various traits we have discussed over the past 54 weeks. Mediocre leaders would discount it as nonsense, or see it as overwhelming and not worth pursuing. In other words, if I had a dime for every time I heard “I’ve been doing it this way for years and it works for me”…. Typically, and quite frankly, that “contentment” is born out of setting the bar pretty low, a misguided purpose, or a lack of courage to go further.
Great leaders see humility and continuous improvement as a great challenge that they can chase their entire lives. It can keep them motivated. Unless you have all of this down (which you don’t), you have plenty of work to do in developing yourself as a leader.
On that note, a word of caution. Beware of perfectionism. If you are focused on being perfect, this will derail your effectiveness as a leader. It is an unhealthy fixation, and it will make others around you demotivated and tired. You are imperfect. Be humble, authentic, and hard working. That’s all you need to be.
“Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.”
In this series, we spent some weeks talking about more general, high-level concepts. Other weeks had more specific/tactical concepts. In wrapping up this series, I’d like to re-visit some of the broader topics that I would consider to be “primary” traits of a great leader. In my opinion, start with these, and the rest will follow. If you miss these, you’ll be in a submarine with screen doors. 99% of it can be built correctly, but the screen doors will pose you a significant obstacle…catch my drift?
We discussed this concept in week 9. If you are authentic, you can gain people’s trust, and rightly so. If you can’t gain the trust of your team, good luck. You won’t be able to lead anyone to do anything worthwhile.
Lastly, don’t confuse authenticity with humility. You can be arrogant, and still be authentic. If you’re authentic, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that makes you humble.
Asking Great Questions
We discussed this in week 19. You can’t solve problems without understanding the problem. You can’t understand the problem without asking great questions. Your questions need to go deep, they need to dig to the heart of the matter.
If you can’t identify problems, you certainly can’t create solutions. And, if you can’t solve problems (and the right problems), you can’t lead.
We took a deep dive into this concept in week 35. Forgiveness creates forward motion. People follow forgiving leaders because they know they are free to reach for the stars and overcome their failures. This culture allows for progress. This culture allows for courage and accelerated individual growth. If you can’t forgive others, the train will never leave the station — you’re on your own.
In week 37, we discussed holding people accountable. This is very simple. Without accountability, there are no results. Leaders that can’t get results don’t stay leaders for very long.
Lead By Example
We talked about setting an example in week 38. Actions speak louder than words. The actions of people shape our society, our cultures, and our progress. Words are not enough. You must demonstrate.
We discussed how great leaders love their people in week 44. We are all naturally wired to both give and receive love. Your caring for others will be carried through to your ultimate customer and/or audience. Love is a never-ending boomerang that keeps coming back to you. If you create a culture that loves and cares for one another, that will radiate to everyone that comes into contact with your organization. Without it, you will never break free from mediocrity.
Eliminate Glass Ceilings
In week 47, we talked about the danger of psychological limits. Let’s revisit this great quote:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford
Imagine telling this to a group of people: “I want you to follow me, and I will lead. I have a vision to do great things, but it’s probably not realistic that we can get there because, we can only accomplish so much.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s not very inspiring to me. If a leader’s BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) is uninspiring, it’s only a matter of time before the followers lose interest. If you put limits on what can be accomplished, you will create a culture of fixed mindset people. It will be impossible to achieve any mission worth achieving.
We discussed this topic in week 53. First and foremost, you have to make sure the people you ask to join you actually are the type that want to grow. If not, you have a beautiful Ferrari but no access to fuel to put in it. Once you bring these people in, if you don’t invest in them and PUSH them to grow, they will eventually leave you. They will be attracted to a leader that can let them grow. This concept is a “2fer” for you. Not only will you retain people, you will create more valuable people. So, you are getting double return on your investment.
“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” Stephen Hawking
Being a leader is not for the faint of heart. Not only are most people going to be hard on you, you will need to be hard on yourself. The criticism from the outside will need to be used to your advantage, but you can’t let it demotivate you. Your own standards must drive you to achieve excellence, yet not weigh you down. It’s important that leaders be very in tune with their emotional and spiritual health. Staying both positive and humble at the same time requires a lot of practice so that you can stay in the “zone”.
In week 1, we discussed in detail how Jesus Christ had already taught us all we needed to know about leadership. I see other leaders in history displaying, with excellence, certain of these strengths. However, I don’t see any that have them all down like Jesus did. If you really want to be a great leader, I would encourage you to get into the New Testament, especially the four Gospels. Yes, it is certainly spiritual, but it can be read also for wisdom, even business wisdom. I can go on and on and on about many different topics that Jesus made simple and “boiled it down” for us. I can elaborate on a topic for a long time and try to get you to think you need all that complicated content, and that my ideas are somehow original. Truth is, my ideas wouldn’t be. We borrow all of our wisdom from God, whether the father, the son, or the holy spirit. The Bible is the best book about leadership you can even refer to. Even if you don’t want to be “religious”, you still won’t find any gaps in easy-to-understand wisdom when you stick to the Bible.
God bless you.
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