Think of famous leaders throughout history.
Winston Churchill is viewed as one of the greatest leaders in modern history. He faced down the Nazis during World War II as Britain’s Prime Minister. He was also a prolific writer and orator. Churchill was so revered that he was elected as Prime Minister for the second time in 1951.
Mahatma Gandhi was more than an advocate of India’s independence movement. His focus on non-violent civil disobedience drew the admiration of millions, including presidents, business leaders, scientists, and philosophers.
Mother Teresa dedicated her efforts to take care of the poorest of the poor. She was able to broker a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas and rescued 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital. She moved into the slums when the 1943 Bengal famine occurred, which killed 2.1 million people. She said she felt a calling. World leaders traveled to see her and be in her presence.
The list of true leaders goes on and on. No one on my list went to business school, got an MBA, nor did they probably even know the full impact they were having on the world and the people around them.
Similarly, some companies are successful because of the visionary leadership of one or two individuals.
The Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company began when 20-year-old William Harley designed a small engine and worked with his childhood friend Arthur Davidson on developing it into the first motor-driven bicycle. Their work was able to inspire generations of enthusiasts.
A young Walt Disney drew cartoons for the Kanas City Film Company and later founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio with his brother Roy. They could never have imagined how their empire would have grown. But Walt knew what made their cartoons magical. People begged for the opportunity to work for Disney.
There will always be individuals who are natural leaders who don’t need a degree. And, there will always be companies that are successful because of one person’s drive.
We are fortunate to have these people and entities around us, but the circumstances around their success are usually rare. Most of us are not that lucky and will need to develop a strategy to attain these leadership qualities.
Who have you worked with that you admired for their leadership characteristics? Take a moment to make a list of the skills they possessed.
How did they work with people?
What did they do in times of crisis?
What was it about that person that stands out in your mind?
There is a somewhat tired trope that says we are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You have an advantage if you have worked with five inspirational leaders. Consider not only what they did but how you can adapt it to your style.
Some of those skills are hard skills. Those are the abilities that can be taught. They can be measured to determine how well they do their job. Soft skills, on the other hand, include the way they get along with other people or their ability to motivate and encourage others. Pay attention to both and learn from them.
This post was excerpted from my book, “Be A Leader Not Just A Manager.” The book is based on research and real-life experiences of some of the nation’s best leaders. To find more information, and purchase the book, click HERE.