If you’ve ever been in a leadership position of any sort, you know that there is always a certain authoritative feeling that comes with the title.
However, the mark of a true leader is one that is able to inspire and empower people, regardless of whether he or she has a title.
How many people do you know that have brought significant change to an environment just by being themselves? These people have a way of uniting and connecting people and really inspire them to also be the best version of themselves.
How many people have simply started movements just by being extraordinary in their everyday actions?
I believe that these are the true leaders.
I decided to make a video about my thoughts on leadership. In this video, I talk about four aspects of an extremely effective leader that I have found to be extremely valuable.
A relational leader leads by example. The most powerful leader is one that allows their life to be the message above their words. They should be able to demonstrate the attitude and mindset that they want to see in their group.
The reason for this is because the attitudes and mindsets that a leader has, regardless of whether it is blatantly communicated, will usually be seen as a model for followers to reproduce. If a leader does not set an ethical, helpful, and generous example, the people who are under their leadership will assume that it is okay for them to do the same.
Leaders should always be learning and growing. Leaders who assume that they have all the answers are leaders that don’t believe there is more room for improvement. Leaders should be confident in what they have learned, but also open and willing to hear input from everyone who has their best interest in mind.
Leaders should always seek to get to know people for who they are. Leaders genuinely care about the well being of their group, because no matter the context, the whole group is healthier when the people that make up the group are whole. Even if what people are going through seems irrelevant to the group’s purpose, an effective leader is able to have an interest in people that goes beyond simply getting work done. It’s about the leader creating a safe environment for people to truly be themselves.
Effective Leaders should be able to raise up leaders. A leader that is capable of naturally creating relationships and getting people to follow them is a good leader. But the most effective leaders understand that the success of the group cannot depend on solely on the leader. In other words, if a leader were to be removed from the group, the group should be able to eventually function just as well without him or her and not completely fall apart.
Thus, the goal of a leader should never be to make people more dependent on the leader, but to empower people to become leaders in their own capacity.
What are other characteristics of leaders that you think are important?
While reading Developing the Leaders Around You by John C. Maxwell, his section about the different levels of leadership really stood out to me.
Within leadership, there are generally three distinct levels of leading. The three levels indicate different levels of commitment, involvement, and relationship.
Nurturing: The focus in a nurturing relationship is based on need. The leader is committed to fulfilling the individual’s needs. This type of relationship is generally based on spontaneous decision to help a person with a specific task.
Equipping: The focus in an equipping relationship is based on task. The leader is committed to teaching the individual how to perform a certain task. This type of relationship is a short term commitment to teach a person a skill in order to perform tasks.
Developing: The focus in a developing relationship is based on the person. The leader is committed to the person unconditionally. This type of relationship is a long term commitment to mentor a person in all aspects of life so that their mentee can mentor someone else.
Realistically, a leader should nurture everyone, equip and handful, and develop a few. A leader that doesn’t equip or develop anyone is a leader that creates dependency on himself / herself, making it difficult for an organization to continue without him / her. A leader that tries to develop too many people is often bent over backwards trying to invest a lot into everyone, ultimately not being able to act according to what they say.
If leadership is truly about serving and doing what is best for the people you are leading, leaders must create a model that is practical, scalable, and meaningful.
As a recently graduated high school senior (class of 2012) that has served in leadership in various clubs and groups, there is definitely a lot more to leadership than it might seem. Here are a couple of pointers.
Take Risks. You will fail sooner or later, and once you come to accept that, you will realize that you grow best in leadership when you learn from your own mistakes. With that said, never hesitate to venture out into the unknown, and do things in ways that no one has ever done before. Think outside the preconceived traditional ways of leading, and focus on doing whatever you can to help.
Lead By Example. The fastest way to lose people who support you is talking the talk without walking the walk. Lessons are infinitely more valuable when you teach from experience. When you experience something, you experientially know what is practical and what is impractical.
Inspire People. Inspire people to action. Give them the freedom to question you, and make yourself open to any opinions or concerns people might have. Invest above and beyond what is required of you into these people’s lives, and get to know people personally.
Have a Vision. Establish a vision and refer back to it often, so that you constantly take steps toward your goal. A vision is something that often takes weeks to establish, and may change as things go along. Since having a fuzzy goal leads to fuzzy results, try to be clear with your vision, defining every little term so that everyone who hears your mission statement interprets it the same way.
Serve Humbly. Leading is not about building yourself up and making yourself famous. Ironically, the way to most successfully lead any group of people is to build them up and make them famous. Because when you empower other people to lead other groups, your influence extends to people you would never have had time to influence. Learn to build other people up.
Communicate. Being able to communicate is perhaps the most valuable asset to a leader. Focus on being able to express your ideas clearly, meaning that you probably may have to repeat yourself. Also understand that communication is two way, meaning listening is also key to communication. Take interest in what the other person has to say, and value them as individuals. There is no such thing as overcommunication.
Lastly, remember that you are dealing with high schoolers, which means you are dealing with a huge variety of maturity levels and changing personalities. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go your way, because leading a teenage kids can be a real challenge. Just pick yourself up and keep being awesome.