Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome. —John Donahoe, president of eBay
The foremost requirement to build an empire of your own would be the quality of leadership. Yet leadership is not about ordering others, rather it is all about empowering others. To transport your idea to a wide array of people, one needs to have integrity found in the great leaders all over the world.
One should keep in mind the difference between a successful and an ineffective leader.
- An ineffective leader would say “Go, do your work!” whereas a successful leader say “Come, let’s go and do our work”.
- An ineffective leader stresses on “I”, the successful leader stresses on “We”.
- An ineffective leader inspires fear, the successful leader generates enthusiasm.
- An ineffective leader drives employees and takes credit for the work done, the successful leader coaches employees and gives credit.
It is not always easy to retain one’s integrity and act according to set ideologies. So what causes one to be led astray from the path of being a capable leader?
Losing contact with Reality
Leaders who focus on external gratification instead of inner satisfaction find it difficult to stay grounded. They reject the honest critic who holds a mirror to their face and speaks the truth. Instead, they surround themselves with supporters telling them what they want to hear. Over time, they lose the capacity for honest dialogue, and people learn not to confront them.
Several leaders move ahead by imposing their will on others. By the time they reach the top, they may be paranoid that someone is waiting in the wings to knock them off their pedestal. Underneath their bravado lies uncertainty that they may not be suitable for such influential leadership roles, and any day someone is going to expose them. To triumph over their fears, they compel so hard for perfection that they are incapable of acknowledging either failures or weaknesses. When confronted with their failures, they try to wrap them up or to generate a rationale that convinces others these problems are not their fault.
The other side of the fear of failure is an insatiable craving for success. Most leaders want to do a good job for their organizations and to be recognized and rewarded accordingly. When they achieve success, they are given added power and enjoy the prestige that goes with it. Along the way, success can go to their heads, and they develop a sense of entitlement. At the height of their power, their success creates a deep desire to keep it going. They are prone to pushing the limits and thinking that they can get away with it.
One should be aware of these pitfalls and try to avoid them as far as possible. Now begins the real Transformation:
The Vital Step on Your Journey:
To become true leaders, we must thrust aside the myth that leadership means having hoards of followers following our track as we ascend to the summits of power. Only then can we realize that real leadership is about empowering others on their journeys. This shift is the transformation from “I” to “We.” It is the most significant process leaders go through in becoming reliable and dependable. Only then can they unleash the full potential of the people who work for them and can motivate them towards doing their best. If our supporters are merely following our lead, then their efforts are restricted to our vision and our instructions about what needs to be done.
The primary move thus is to develop oneself to be an authentic and successful leader. But let not that be discouraging, because:
• You do not have to be born with the characteristics or traits of a leader.
• You do not have to wait for a tap on the shoulder.
• You do not have to be at the top of your organization.
• You can step up and lead at any point in your life.
As Eleanor Roosevelt puts it, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” Thus the five dimensions of an authentic leader necessarily must include:
- Following intention with passion- Understanding oneself and one’s purpose is essential. The leader should know his/her passion and direct their energy in the positive direction.
- Practicing firm values- A leader had to go through a number of ups and downs. It is the integrity the one maintains under sheer pressure is what distinguishes them from others. The leader should have a set of values to which he/she strictly adheres to.
- Leading with heart- Compassion and empathy is indispensable when it comes to leading people. Courage is important while going through rough times.
- Setting up durable relationships- Good personal relations with people will ensure total commitment towards work and loyalty to the company from them.
- Demonstrating self-discipline- Leaders are expected to take the levels higher. Once the standard is set, people will try to reach it. True leaders should be able to admit their mistakes and rectify them through self-discipline.
- Leadership is an expedition, a journey and there is no such thing as the instant leader. Your journey to genuine leadership will take you through many peaks and valleys as you stumble upon the world’s assessments, rewards, and seductions. Becoming a genuine leader takes devotion to your own development and growth, as there will be many temptations to pull you off the course to your dream. Maintaining your authenticity along the way may be the greatest challenge you ever face.
According to Bill George and Peter Sims, leadership has three distinct phases:
Phase I: Preparing for Leadership
The first thirty years is the time to prepare for leadership, when character is formed and people become individual contributors or lead teams for the first time. As Randy Komisar, former CEO of Lucas Arts, says, “This is your opportunity to rub up against the world.”
Phase II: Leading
The second phase begins with a brisk gathering of leadership experiences and it culminates in the fifties, when leaders typically arrive at their peak leadership. In between, most leaders go through a crucible, a difficult period at work or at home that tests them to the core. The result is a transformation of their understanding of what their leadership is all about, followed by a rapid acceleration of their development.
Phase III: Giving Back
The last thirty years of a leader’s journey can be the most fruitful and gratifying of all. Many leaders are bypassing retirement to share their experience with multiple organizations. They serve on for-profit or non profit boards, mentor young leaders, take up teaching, or coach newly appointed CEOs.
The path thus entails self-awareness, adherence to values, proper motivation towards our passion, supporting the team as one of them and living a disciplined and integrated life. This would allow the world to witness a hero’s journey!