There are few endeavors more personal than leadership. High Performance Leaders come in as many packages as there are individuals.
While there is no formula or ideal model for the high performance leader, there are common characteristics found among those who lead most effectively—vision, authenticity, sincerity, integrity and courage.
Vision, an imagined and declared intention—a story/portrait of the future compelling enough to enroll, excite, align, focus and mobilize others—can be very personal (think Steve Jobs). But, at the end of the day, for a vision to be most compelling, it much become shared.
On the other hand, authenticity, sincerity, integrity and courage are purely personal. Only I can embrace, embody and model these.
Let’s face it, to lead is to live under a microscope. All eyes are on the leader and every move is scrutinized, analyzed and interpreted in ways that dramatically affect the mood, level of commitment, depth of engagement and ownership of results on the part of those who choose to follow.
At the foundational level, few will willingly, enthusiastically follow anyone perceived not to be authentic. To be authentic is to routinely take the risk of disclosing who you are.
Great leaders lay themselves on the line—warts and all. To quote dictionary.com, to be authentic is to be “free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere”.
Notice the inclusion of the concept of sincerity—do I mean what I say?
If yes, I am well positioned to lead. If no, forget it. While I might retain a designated position of leadership with questionable sincerity, there is virtually no chance that others will afford me credibility.
Sincerity and integrity—walking my talk—go hand in hand. For instance, there are many leaders capable of and practiced in saying the right thing.
To be articulate and present oneself as having integrity is one thing, to follow through is quite another. Let there be no question in your mind about this. Acting consistent with declared intentions is a fundamental test of effective leadership. If I do, I have and model integrity and the sky is the limit. If not, noise, distraction, disaffection and misalignment abound.
To be courageous is to act in alignment with what matters in the face of fear, ambiguity, risk and criticism. To be courageous is to rise above the fray—to dare to see the world differently, imagine possibility and go all in to capture it.
To be courageous is to accept the reality that no new paths are blazed in the absence of second guessing, noise and attempts to distract or deter.
There will always be nay sayers. There will always be those who pull you aside to share their fears and convey negative gossip—“Did you hear? Are you aware?”
High performance leadership is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who claim to embrace change while holding firmly onto historic comfort zones.
Courageous leaders knows and act consistent with what matters, steps into fear, discomfort, uncertainty and distraction while staying the course in the face of negative gossip and nay sayers.
At the end of the day, leadership is personal. Very, very personal.
Leadership starts at home—with me. Do I have a compelling vision that others will passionately embrace, enhance and make their own? If not, am I capable of inspiring my team to collaboratively design and put forward a vision that we can all align around?
Am I willing and self aware enough to run the risk of putting “Me” out there for all to see and assess? Do I say what I mean and walk my talk? Have I the courage to stay the course?
There is no hiding place for the High Performance Leader. If I choose the personal path of leadership, all eyes are on me.
For the aspiring leader, the real question is this—am I all in?
Think about it…
October 10, 2014