Leadership is not what I thought it was.
I used to think it was a position. Or a title.
But I’ve learned that being ‘the boss’
does not automatically
make you a leader.
So, what is leadership really?
Leadership is a lot of things. Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers. Some will include leadership traits or attributes, and others will include actions.
It’s assumed that the meaning of leadership is universally understood. But it’s not.
I used to think there was some great chasm that separated me from the leaders.
I also used to think that leaders had all the answers. That they were born with some special gene that granted them the unique ability to gain prominent positions and make demands.
But, while it’s true that certain personality types are more inclined to excel in specific leadership roles, it’s not true that leadership is for a select few.
Anyone can stand up and lead ANY TIME!
Because leadership isn’t really about the leader herself...
It’s about others.
“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” Henry Ford
To lead is to inspire someone else to want to take action.
Leadership is more about exhibiting certain inspirational traits than it is about having a certain type of personality, age, culture, or genetics.1
Do you think leaders are born or made? 🤔
Let me tell you about an eye-opening experience I had as a young employee at a manufacturing company.
At the time, I was not in any type of leadership position. I remember feeling like a victim when things went wrong or when something that should happen, wasn’t happening. I felt helpless and frustrated.
I thought it was the manager’s job to fix things. I didn’t think it was my place.
I missed opportunity after opportunity to step into leadership because of that misguided mindset.
My boss at the time was empathetic and would listen patiently when I went into his office to complain and vent.
One time he said to me, “It’s great you can see these things, Laurie, and it would be even better if you could figure out how to solve them.”
I never would have imagined that I should step up and offer solutions!
Little did I know at the time that by inspiring me to solve problems and take action he was grooming me to be a leader.
This is one of the traits of an exceptional leader: listen to your people, really hear their pain points, and then encourage them to devise solutions instead of just complaining.
Not only does this help them feel a sense of ownership, it also helps you gather valuable input about the dynamics of your team. (And it shortens that line outside of your door! 😉)
The best leaders draw on the collective wisdom of the team.
That boss helped me understand that leadership is not what I thought it was. Hierarchy. Title. Position.
Instead, leadership is a series of actions.
Specifically, actions that inspire others to act.
While it’s common to think of leadership in terms of qualities (traits), equally as important are behaviors (actions).
Research proves that qualities alone do not make a great leader. What a person does with those qualities is more indicative of their leadership capability.
How do I become a leader who inspires?
First off, rephrase your desire to:
How do I inspire?
Our goal should not be about becoming a leader (or a better leader). Our goal should be to exhibit the behaviors that inspire others to take action. The leader part is a byproduct of utilizing the right skills at the right time.
The good news is, this can be learned. Through deliberate choices/actions, you can leverage innate traits and qualities to actualize your leadership potential.
No matter what, always focus on your behaviors as a leader. This sends a stronger message and has more of an impact than latent qualities.
Dr. Josh Axe explains it this way,
“Sometimes, the behaviors of a leader are innate, but most of the time, a leader must learn which behaviors get the best results through experience and training.”
The chart below shows a few examples of how having certain qualities or traits can drive specific actions (and, likewise, how choosing certain behaviors consistently can endow you with certain qualities).
But remember, you do not need to have certain innate leadership qualities in order to choose leadership-type behaviors.
Becoming an effective or inspirational leader is not about perfection.
But it IS about practice.
Just like a master baker or a concert pianist or a professional photographer — leaders must practice their craft if they want to improve.
Every day do something to develop your skills. Being a leader means dedicating yourself to personal growth. (That in and of itself is inspirational!)
Here are 5 things you can start doing now:
1. Get in the mirror.
Take ownership for everything in your life. Hold yourself accountable for all your actions and outcomes. A simple practice to anchor this intention is daily self-reflection.
2. Get clarity.
If you want to inspire others you’ll have to get very clear on your purpose and your intent. Take my free GRIT Self-Assessment to kickstart your awareness. Yes, it really is free 😁
3. Get to know your people.
As a Certified DiSC® trainer for over 22 years, I can tell you that this tool is fun and very easy for people to remember. It helps people understand, appreciate and communicate better with each other. Take an in-depth look into the program and discover how you can use Everything DiSC® in your organization. ⭐ Be my guest at an Everything DiSC® virtual showcase (Aug 9th at 3pm or Oct 6th at 12pm). It's free to attend, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Showcase Guest and in the body of the email include the date you wish to attend.
4. Get coaching.
I believe so much in your potential, and my passion is to help each and every one of us to live the best lives we can. Work with me one-on-one to create a personalized GRIT roadmap - a uniquely combined set of traits - that will set the course for your journey.
5. Get GRIT.
Whether it’s through workshops, coaching, consulting, retreats, speaking engagements, or my book, Leading with GRIT® - these are proven tools and techniques designed to engage and inspire your team. Schedule a free discovery call with me today!
You don’t have to be born with a certain set of traits in order to lead — you can choose to learn the skills and practice the habits that will make you an effective leader.
John Maxwell said, “A dream becomes a reality as a result of your actions, and your actions are controlled, to a large extent, by your habits.”
⚡ Leadership is a series of intentional actions.
Your actions are the key to becoming a leader who inspires. 🗝️