A leader by her conviction, focus, and discipline ignites a powerful engine of change. Thomas Fuller described leaders when he said, “A strong will, a settled purpose, an invincible determination, can accomplish almost anything; and in this lies the distinction between great men and little men.” Leaders are women and men who embrace their greatness.
Patrick Henry stressed, “Adversity toughens manhood, and the characteristic of the good or the great man, is not that he has been exempted from the evils of life, but that he has surmounted them.” Great leaders surmount adversity and make success possible.
While failure may be the result of circumstance, success is a product of action – the province of leadership.
Leadership, in a word, is inspiration. The single defining characteristic of a leader is the ability to inspire. A leader arouses motivation within people. Through word and deed, a leader causes people to move, act, create and become. A leader sparks desire generating action. A leader gets people to do things they, on their own, would not do.
To inspire action, a leader provides one or both of the indispensable ingredients needed to achieve any purpose: vision and motivation. Leaders spend their time, energy and talents creating and sharing a relevant vision of a worthwhile objective. And leaders provide the energy, drive, and discipline to move the team forward toward the goal. Teams fail when leaders fail to inspire.
Inspirational leaders embody four essential characteristics: competence, caring, commitment and courage – each in appropriate measure.
To lead a leader must know what he or she is doing. A leader must be technically competent at the task at hand. If a leader is not competent success depends on the skills and abilities of team members.
To lead others a leader must genuinely care about people. If she is competent at the task but doesn’t care about people that leader may achieve the objective, but she will not be a success. Leadership is about connecting and motivating people and advancing together.
Leaders are committed to their people, their team and the task at hand – a worthwhile objective. A lack of commitment, to either people or the mission, spreads like a virus undermining any opportunity for progress.
And a leader must be courageous. Inspiring others is fundamentally about helping people grow. Growth and change are scary propositions. A leader sets the example by being willing to learn and grow – change; and then encourages others to follow her example.
Leaders promote worthwhile goals and seek the common good. Achieving worthwhile goals depends on choices leaders make. Being a leader is a lonely calling. Knowing the right thing to do is hard enough; doing it is sometimes next to impossible. But that is just what great leaders do – make the impossible possible.
I challenge you to lead – make hard choices, set the example and face fear. Thoughtfully and generously employ the gifts and talents you possess and then leverage the gifts and talents of the team around you.
Abdicating responsibility surrenders power. Leaders take on and bear the burden of responsibility. Don’t knowingly or unwittingly forfeit your power. Seize the opportunity to lead. It is by trial and tribulation we are made stronger. Running from adversity only fashions regrets, never victory.
Employ leadership fundamentals to lead when it matters and succeed.
Scott F. Paradis, author of “Explosive Leadership – the Ultimate Leader Training Experience” and “Warriors Diplomats Heroes, Why America’s Army Succeeds: Lessons for Business and Life,” focuses on the fundamental principles of leadership and success.