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Want to Be a Leader? Start With Yourself

Lori West 06 Sep 2017
It’s September. Families have returned from summer breaks. Young people have returned to school. The streets of the cities are full of traffic. Life returns to “normal” after a period of rest and relaxation.

It’s also a little like the start of a New Year. Having a break from the usual routine helps you see your life with a fresh pair of eyes, and that makes it a great time to embark upon something new, like your leadership objectives.

Do you want to make your mark on society in some way? Perhaps you admit that you have more to give than you are currently giving. There’s a little voice inside you urging you to use your skills and your talents in a more fulfilling way than you currently are.

What is stopping you from “going for it?” Do you have a business idea, but you’re too scared to take the plunge? Could you offer more in your current role, but you don’t know how? Would you love to change career, but you’re concerned about the financial implications? Are you terrified of failure? Does the idea of disappointing others worry you?

The list of excuses that stop people from stepping into leadership is long. My story is pretty typical. When I worked in marketing in my mid-20s, I was challenged to move from an executive role to a management role. The thought terrified me so much that I tried to sabotage my career. I partied all night and came into work late. I procrastinated when it came to completing tasks. I was surly. I came very close to being fired.

I was fortunate to work for an enlightened director who, despite my erratic behaviour, saw potential in me. During a painful performance review, he gave me an unconventional but effective objective - to make a mistake. His reason? He wanted me to discover that mistakes could be corrected, and sometimes they were useful.

This objective challenged the core of the personality construct that held me back: perfectionism. It also spoke to the heart of the person who lay underneath the perfectionist facade: a courageous, intelligent, likeable, single-mindedly determined young woman capable of great things.

He acknowledged my resistance, he recognised the deeper truth of who I was, and he challenged me to step up. It was a massive turning point in my career. I hardly looked backed from that point forward. His insight helped me break free from the constraints of perfectionism. I set about carving out a niche for myself as an internet technology expert during the dotcom revolution, and each time I changed career or tried something new, I treasured that piece of wisdom as a gem that I recalled again and again.

All leaders have had at least one, and usually several defining moments when they are forced to meet themselves at a point of limitation. It is at this point that they are faced with the choice of taking transformative action and swimming, or staying where they are and treading water at best, sinking at worst. These experiences are often the making of them, and the truthful ones attribute their successes to the guidance of a valued coach or mentor.

Whatever your concerns are about stepping up as a leader, recognise one essential truth. All leaders have been in similar shoes to yours at some point in their careers. They’ve had to assess their situation and make a leap of faith. Most have experienced a degree of failure, but they also experienced success. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t regard them as leaders.

People attempt to define the qualities good leaders possess. Traits like grit, persistence, vision, commitment, high performance, risk-taking, strategic thinking and confidence have long been cited as beneficial traits to good leadership. Increasingly, admired leaders demonstrate a high degree of emotional intelligence.

The idea of leadership evolves like everything else, and of course these qualities will support your leadership, but what is it that calls these qualities into being? Are people born with them? Do life circumstances require certain people to develop them? Do people consciously set out to develop leadership qualities? What is it that really distinguishes someone as a leader?

The part of you that distinguishes you as a leader is your STAND. What does that mean? Well, ask yourself the following questions.
  1. What do you consistently and clearly require of yourself and others?
  2. What quality or qualities distinguish you from your colleagues?
  3. What are you so committed to that you would be willing to fight for it, risking ridicule in the process?
  4. What attracts others to you?
You’ll have lots of stands. Are your conscious of them? If not, imagine you are a fly on the wall. How would your colleagues or friends describe you? What evidence would they use to support their assessment?

What you hear is what you are embodying as a leader. Is this the contribution you have set out to make? If it is, great. Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, then something needs to change. That something is YOU. The stand you must take is a stand for yourself. Who do you want to be, and what are you prepared to do to be it?

If you intend to expand your leadership beyond its current confines, I have an opportunity for you. I am piloting my new leadership development programme designed to provide future leaders with a transformative foundation from which leadership brilliance emerges and grows. I am looking for future Brilliance™ Trailblazers - people determined to make a difference now.

Is that you? If so, get in touch here by Friday, 15 September 2017.

I’m here to help you own your brilliance and use it to create value for humanity. You can begin by being a stand for yourself. I throw down the brilliance gauntlet. Will you rise to the challenge?

The Brilliance™ Trailblazer Ltd - Leadership for the New Millennium

For more information on how to become a Brilliance™ Trailblazer, click here.
To download my leadership ebook, Poised for Progress, click here.
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