“The miracle power that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance, under the promptings of a brave determined spirit.” – Mark Twain
There are many experts who like to say that leaders are made, not born.
I would argue the exact opposite. I believe we are all natural-born leaders, but our leadership lights have been deprogrammed along the way.
As a child, you were probably a natural leader – curious and excited, always hungry for knowledge, with an active imagination; you knew exactly what you wanted, were persistent and determined in getting what you wanted, and had the innate ability to motivate, inspire, and influence everyone around you to help in accomplishing your objectives.
So why is this so difficult to do as adults? What happened?
Over time, we got used to hearing, No, Don't, and Can't.
No! Don't do this. Don't do that. You can't do this. You can't do that. No!
Maybe our parents told us to keep quiet and not disturb the adults by asking silly questions. This pattern continued into high school with our teachers telling us what we could do and couldn't do and what was possible. Then many of us got hit with the big one: institutionalized formal education in college or university.
Unfortunately, the traditional educational system really falls short in many ways when it comes to teaching students how to become leaders; many times it teaches students how to become polite order takers for the corporate world.
Instead of learning to become creative, independent, self-reliant, and think for themselves, most people learn how to obey and intelligently follow rules to keep the corporate machine humming.
Developing the Leader in you to live your highest life, then, requires a process of unlearning by self-remembering, self-honoring, and self-reflection. Becoming an effective leader again will require you to be brave and unlock the door to your past experiences, where your childhood dreams lie, and what really touches your heart.
Here are ten steps you can take to discover your inner Leader and ignite your passion for greatness.
Leadership starts with humility. To be a successful leader, you must first humble yourself and be willing to serve others. No one wants to follow someone who is arrogant, at least not for long. Be humble like a child, always curious, always learning. For what is excellence but always wanting to better yourself, always improving, and always growing. When you are humble, you become genuinely interested in people because you want to learn from them. And because you want to learn and grow, you become a more effective listener, which is the most powerful leadership communication tool in your arsenal. When people sense you are genuinely interested in them, they will naturally be interested in you.
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Although it's a strategic management tool taught in business schools and used by large corporations, it can also be used in your own professional development as a leader. This is a useful technique to gain access to self-knowledge, self-remembering, and self-honoring. Start by writing down all your Strengths including your accomplishments. Then write out all your Weaknesses and areas in need of improvement. By bringing them to conscious awareness you can begin to work on them. Continue by listing all the Opportunities you see available to you for using your strengths. Finally, write down all the Threats or obstacles that are currently blocking you or that you think you will deal with along the way to achieving your goals.
Follow Your Passion
No matter how busy you are, always take some time to do what you love doing. Energy is contagious and being a vital person vitalizes others. When you are pursuing your passions, people around you cannot help but feel impassioned by your presence. This will make you a charismatic leader. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, be it writing, painting, photography, sports, dancing, networking, or business ventures, set aside time every week, at least one hour a day, to pursue these activities. Believe me, you have the time. If you give yourself a time audit for a day, you would be surprised to see how much time goes to waste!
Have Big Goals
If you want to be larger than life, you need a goal that's larger than life. Small dreams don’t serve you or anyone else. It takes the same amount of energy to dream small that it does to dream big. So be Big and be brave! Write down your Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The one that excites you the most. Remember, don't be small and realistic; be bold and unreasonable! Go for the Gold, the Pulitzer, the Nobel, the highest level you can possibly accomplish in your field. After you've written down your goal, list every single reason why you CAN achieve your goal instead of worrying about why you can't.
Without a vision, we have no direction. If you can't see yourself winning that award and feel the tears of victory streaming down your face, it's not likely you will be able to lead yourself or your team to victory. Visualize what it would be like to achieve your dream. See it, hear it, and feel it in your gut.
Victory belongs to those who want it the most and stay in it even after everyone else would quit. Now that you have a goal, make sure you take consistent action every single day. I recommend doing at least 3 things every day that will move you closer to accomplishing your goal..
Honor Your Word
Every time you break your word, your reputation takes a hit. Leaders keep their word and build trust with their network. You can accumulate all the riches in the world, but you only have one reputation in life. Your word is your bond. Honor it and honor yourself.
Find a Mentor
Get yourself a mentor. Preferably someone who has already found a high degree of success in your field or has achieved what you want to achieve. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You've got nothing to lose. In addition to mentors, take time to study books about great leaders that you admire. Learn everything you can from their journeys and model their success behaviors. Stand on the shoulders of giants.
Be Your Best Self
Build your relationships with mentors and use your research on great leaders as models or reference points for inspiration, but never copy them like a parrot. Everyone has vastly different leadership styles and you have to find your own voice. History books are filled with many examples of leaders who are different sides of the coin. Be yourself, your best self, always competing against yourself and getting better. This will allow you to become a first-rate YOU instead of a second-rate somebody else.
Leaders are givers. By giving, you activate the law of reciprocity. The more you give, the more you get back. If you want more love, respect, and compassion, give love, give respect, and give compassion. Be a mentor to others, as others have mentored you. Give back to your community as you are able. Zig Ziglar once said that the only way to get what you want is by helping enough people get what they want first.
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