I greatly believe that leading yourself is the first step in becoming the leader you want to be for others.
Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Great leaders aren’t born. They’re made.”
I completely agree.
But it isn’t easy.
Making yourself into a great leader takes time, work, and the often-challenging practice of self-discipline. Continuing the journey of personal growth is part of that self-discipline.
Sure, it would be the path of least resistance to take what you’ve learned about leadership up to this point and rest on the laurels of your accomplishments so far.
But is this really the path that great leaders take?
When I first started in business, I had no intention of selling real estate. My career evolved over the years. You see, when I am passionate about something, I am all in. If I am detached, I don’t work at my highest and best level. I love building things. I’m an entrepreneur—a visionary.
It took a little time to realize I didn’t belong behind a desk. I was an influencer, someone who could get people to follow me.
When I was a regional manager at Merrill Lynch, I was given the opportunity to create my own position. To find something I loved and to do it well.
The truth is that great leadership is made of consistent, committed work. And that work starts on the inside.
I recently heard a story about a postal worker named Fred who turned the mundane work of delivering mail into an extraordinary experience for both him and his customers. With a little bit of creativity and thoughtfulness anyone can transform their work and even transform their lives.
Very few of us have so-called “dream jobs” like being a rock star or a professional athlete. For most people, their jobs are pretty ordinary—a paycheck. And if you are lucky enough to be doing what you love, following your passion and adding value to others, it’s probably because you’ve had great leadership along the way.
So what does it take for a leader to maximize the contributions of employees, especially if they are feeling apathetic, burned out or unimportant?
That has been a question I have often debated. In the past, leadership centered on such things as control. Those who had the upper hand ruled. Leadership meant that managers made expectations clear and checked to see that jobs were done. However, that kind of leadership is no longer effective. Instead of controlling, we must learn to influence.
An effective leader is an influencer who inspires the ordinary to become extraordinary through their actions, regardless of where they sit within the organization. In today's successful corporations, more and more decisions are being made from the bottom up, with accountability at much lower levels. There’s also a strong focus on overall job satisfaction, the quality of work and the team spirit.
So what constitutes an extraordinary person in the workplace? To me, it’s someone who consistently does the things ordinary people can't do or won't do. If a leader wants their ordinary people to become extraordinary, they simply need to give them strong reasons to do the things ordinary people won't do, and they need to teach them to do the things ordinary people can't do. It takes a willingness to exert persistent effort.
To be certain, someone can lead but not everyone is an effective leader. The kind of quality that establishes inspired leadership rarely comes from one-time breakthroughs. It stems from small incremental improvements day in and day out.
It also comes from knowing and acknowledging that everyone matters in the company. Each and every employee plays a specific part in the overall corporate culture, which contributes to the success of that corporation. The key is to help your people cultivate an attitude of excellence, and to make it a part of their everyday activities. An attitude of excellence is the most effective way to build an extraordinary team. That’s the price tag of leadership.