Forget about fancy capes and titles when discussing leadership
Leadership is usually associated with caped superheroes, but Will Ainsworth says it doesn’t have to be. Here, Openn Negotiation’s chief growth officer explains why silent and unsung heroes can be equally effective leaders if they put the right deeds in place.
When you visualize a leader, what do you think of?
For me, he’s either a superhero or the captain of a professional sports team.
We are conditioned to put leadership on a pedestal, and maybe it is for the right reasons.
We all have someone we admire and who embodies the virtues of a good leader.
But then there is the day-to-day leadership, without mistrust and without heroism. Actions that don’t come with a great headline but have the potential to change someone’s life.
Maybe it’s showing a little compassion for someone when your experience tells you they’re slacking off.
Maybe it’s stopping to listen to this crazy idea of the new guy in the office. Or even stop and tell someone that they do a good job every now and then.
When you stop and think about a point when someone said or did something that fundamentally improved your life, I suspect you will find that they were not the same type of leader that you initially envisioned.
So what makes a great leader?
What is the difference between the daily leadership we can all show and the traits of those we truly admire?
There are many qualities that we can all list and discuss. From my experience, I would say the top five would be:
- Humility – be self-aware, know when you are wrong, and seize opportunities to highlight your team’s victories.
- Resilience – the ability to keep your own energy level and that of your team under pressure.
- Curiousity – Asking ‘why’ and empowering staff to do the same creates a fearless culture (one of the biggest barriers to staff engagement).
- Integrity – go through with it, own up to your mistakes and model ethical behavior.
- Courage – endure trials and criticism, relinquish control and continually seek to be bold.
But then there are the things you do physically, combined with the way you act.
None of these require a cloak, harbor master’s office, or fancy title.
Over the course of my time, I have been blessed to work with exceptional leaders.
What sets them apart is their ability to embody these virtues on a daily basis.
We all have our own styles and our own brands, but from my perspective, I’ve noticed a few key truths that the most successful leaders all seem to show.
They predict and prepare for change
Effective leaders do not allow themselves to be at the mercy of the future.
They shape it and control it making sure they are spending time with the right people.
They are always listening and asking questions – constantly learning about potential externalities.
An ability to inspire and motivate
A leader’s ability to effect change relies on their ability to connect with a wide range of people who are different from them.
A will to jump
Often times we give great leadership to those who have the most experience.
While pattern recognition, along with proven principles, helps achieve success, the best leaders are those who are willing to let go.
Who dares to be different.
Whether you’re at the peak of your career managing large teams or just starting to research your first sale, don’t put a box around leadership.
No one owns it and no one has finished it. You have the opportunity to lead today. Take the plunge.