Throughout history, whenever the topic of leadership comes up, a few names are always in the short list for discussion: Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa. In business, the personalities most frequently mentioned include: Lakshmi Mittal of Arcelor Mittal, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Jack Ma of Ali Baba and Sir Richard Branson of The Virgin Group.
If you read up on their history, you will note that these people did not plan on becoming leaders. The path they chose led them to greatness because each one had a singular focus to pursue their purpose in life. Purpose answers the question, “Why am I doing this?” Purpose lends meaning to your goals and objectives. Eventually though they all realized that they couldn’t complete the journey on their own.
They need people
Successful leaders are those who understand the value of people. They acknowledge the significance of their contributions to the journey and wholeheartedly appreciate the effort they put in in order to realize the goals of the endeavor. In today’s global business environment which has grown highly unpredictable and volatile, people have come to the forefront of the corporate agenda because they are the only asset that has the ability to adapt to changing conditions.
And people need great leaders
What makes one person a great leader compared to another? After reading several articles on leadership development, I believe these three qualities encompass all you need to become a great leader in business.
1. Inspire people
Successful leaders do not demand or instruct people to follow them; they inspire people to follow them willingly. But what inspires people to follow? Is it a great speech? There are people who present themselves as “leaders” because they have the ability to speak. But words are empty unless they have substance. Leaders inspire people through action and deeds; by setting an example and by delivering on promises and assurances. They recognize the value of people, their contributions to the success of the enterprise and as such, actively involve them in the decision-making process.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said,
I think it’s very difficult to lead today when people are not fully participating in the decision. If you don’t give people an opportunity to be really engaged, they won’t stay.
2. No fear of failure
Business psychologists and neuroscientists believe that when people are confronted by their fear of failure, their choices are fight, flight or freeze. Leaders neither flight nor freeze. Rather they embrace their fear and run towards it head-on. They believe that the fear of failure is not a detriment but a motivator for success.
Sir Richard Branson of The Virgin Group views failure as one of the secrets to success “as the best ideas come from the ashes of a shuttered business.” It’s never easy to close down a business. Its loss is not just measured in monetary terms but in time, resources and energy. When you lose a business, it’s like having your life drained from you. But leaders understand that every business carries the risk of failure with every decision that is made. What differentiates them from others is they learn from failure and work to get back on course.
Leaders encourage their people to think in the same way. Tony Hsieh of Zappos has abolished management through the declaration of a “Holacracy”; an organizational method whereby everyone is accountable for every decision they make. Hsieh believes that leaders accept accountability because they are not afraid of failing.
3. Be a Visionary
People who become great leaders never get complacent. They are always thinking of ways to make their business better. They accept that evolution is a constant in life; the needs, demands and preferences of people change. So they keep their minds open, strive to learn, acquire better skills, and encourage others to do the same.
Success is no longer measured in terms of the financial bottom-line. Purpose in the context of leadership has a greater meaning and a larger scope. Leaders measure success in how they have contributed to the welfare of their people, the community and the environment because to sustain their purpose they have to encourage leadership at different levels.
The most iconic leaders in history such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela had no more regard for themselves in the face of threat to life and constant adversity. They held on to the fulfillment of their vision which was fueled by the purpose they originally set out to do.
We can sum up leadership in one word – “Character”. If you want to be a great leader you must build character. Your character represents who you are. And at the core of who you are, stand your values which will shape how you think, act and how people perceive you. Find those values and use them to reference your purpose. Aligned values and purpose create a powerful vision that will resonate with your people and define who you are as a leader.
This guest post was written by Felix Tarcomnicu. Felix works with OutsourceWorkers.com. He helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses and hire virtual assistants. If you would also like to submit a guest post, click here.