Great leadership is as rare as a great leader…
In my previous post, Great Leaders: What Makes Them Great and Their Ten Common Traits, I introduced you to what makes leaders great. I will now introduce you to how they deliver great leadership.
As highlighted in the earlier post, great leaders possess a set of traits or characteristics that separate them from the pack. But traits alone do not set a course, they merely describe a leader. To really capture the hearts and minds, one must have a sound vision where its success is achievable and rewardable.
However, in order to make this a reality, it requires something more than traits, something fundamentally different. It requires a set of steps or pattern that consistently produces and sustains a path.
To put it differently, delivering great leadership demands a method or approach that can take a vision and make it an actionable movement…
it requires structure.
What is Great Leadership?
Great leadership is the ability to move people and ideas. It is setting a path and getting others to believe in something and welcome the change it brings. But, not just change for the sake of it but change that motivates, inspires and transforms. And more importantly, change that is achievable.
As mentioned in my previous post, leaders like Steven Jobs and Martin Luther King, Jr., both had grand visions and many of the traits of being a great leader. But what set them apart from others was that they envisioned a future, and then created it.
It was not just the fact that they led greatly, but the fact that their leadershipand
To emphasize, Elon Musk (the visionary industrialist for Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and Solar City) is a great leader possessing many key leadership characteristics. Musk broke into an entrenched automotive, energy and space business with a breathtaking new vision to make electric cars viable, solar power a major utility player, and to commercially reach into space and settle beyond. What resulted are three game-changing companies that in less than a decade are transforming industries – and more importantly, our future.
But, what made him different was his ability to disrupt the norm and create something new and beneficial.
As Ashlee Vance states in, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (2014), “Page [Larry Page of Google] talked about Musk at times as if he were a one-of-a-kind, a force of nature able to accomplish things in the business world that others would never try.”
What Musk or any other great leader accomplishes requires more than just attributes. It requires something else, something that most leaders fail to recognize. Delivering great leadership requires structure. It is not as much about their leadership characteristics, as it is about how they present ideas. Even ideas need a framework to move forward. Leadership qualities are essential, but the real art of great leadership is how it is applied.
How to Apply It
Applying great leadership is not easy. Moving people along an uncertain road is complicated and challenging. It requires a consistent methodology, a pattern or set of steps that create a path, bring value to it and solidify its purpose. It is a renewable outline for success that can take ideas, bring them to reality and win a devoted following…this is great leadership.
Here are some key steps in applying great leadership:
Step 1) Vision
Have one! First and foremost, an organization or movement cannot go forward if they do not have an idea of what they are and why they exist. Asking these questions is the starting point and cannot be overemphasized. One must see beyond the surface of everyday actions, efficiencies, and numbers and look for the complexity and multiple layers within these questions. By resolving them, you can begin to see the intent and purpose, or the cause and effect, and can develop a keen foresight for actions, direction, and a path. In other words, answer the what and why and a vision is born.
Step 2) Purpose
Get one! People will not willfully follow without a reason. They want to feel needed and wanted, and they want to believe in what they are doing. The challenge with providing meaning to your work is that day-to-day activities can create complacency and a sense of pointlessness. Routine and monotony can erase ones’ view of the bigger picture. Regularly review and link the vision to measures of success and reiterate the value of personal actions…a pat on the back through any form of communication is essential. Tie individual or group contributions to desired results and frequently highlight them. The vision lays the path…purpose keeps you on it.
Step 3) Belief
Create it! We are spiritual creatures by nature. Everybody wants something to believe in and something worth believing. The path should create a sense of purpose, fulfillment, motivation, and comfort. But, its value must emanate from those who lead it and most importantly, the belief they place in it. As the dictionary defines, “Belief is a state of mind in which trust, confidence, or reliance is placed in someone or something.” It is hard to engender a faith in people or concepts that are not credible, understood, or accepted. To believe, one puts trust in a leader but more importantly, sees the benefit in their direction. Real change starts with a vision, kept on target with purpose and solidified in belief.
Step 4) Faith
Reinforce it! Great leadership transforms a belief into faith. Showing the value and benefit of believing enhances the relevance of ones’ faith. Having faith also relieves any doubts and establishes confidence and trust in the vision or path. In other words, faith is believing in something you can see but may not yet touch. However, it should not be confused with zealousness. Faith is not about forging an ideology, controlling anybody’s thinking, or imposing the intolerance of other ideas. It is about believing in something, building hope and influencing a devoted behavior through a realistic and inspirational vision, a vision that lays out practical measures of success to reach concrete and achievable outcomes. Once you have a vision, target with purpose, shape a belief, and the faithful will follow.
The sequence is important
Each of these steps and their sequence is vital for success. One step without the other is incomplete as a vision without purpose means little. And without belief, there is little faith. Further, trying to establish a belief before setting a vision is the “tail wagging the dog”…awkward and confusing. Lastly, having faith before a belief is like stepping out of an airplane without a parachute…one before the other has a different outcome.
Remember, this is a renewable outline, these steps should be repeated over and over. It is important to note that the initial sequence of these steps sets the path, and by continually repeating it reinforces its purpose.
Great leadership is a game-changing success that transcends reward or measure. It is impactful in a way that promotes a future of significant change and is dynamic, abstract, and idealistic. Great leadership does not convince people to follow, it moves people to follow. To put it simply, great leadership breaks the mold and challenges the existing order rather than hiding within it. It is a vision that welcomes direction, defines beliefs, and weaves cause and purpose into actions. Great leadership is more than a set of common traits, it is the ability to take a concept and make it a movement.
When one leads they achieve success, but when one provides great leadership, they change the world.