In any discussion of leadership, it is almost inevitable that we find ourselves thinking in terms of formal leadership. We tend to think of leadership in terms of rank or position. However, formal leadership is the outgrowth of your ability to master the art of self-leadership; that is, "the ability to establish a specific direction for your own life, and to proceed in that direction with the self-confidence that comes only to one who knows where he or she is going". Becoming a leader means becoming you. It is that simple... and that difficult. It begins with figuring out who you are and what gives your life value and meaning. Valueship is focusing on doing the right things and understanding who you are, who you want to become, what skills you want to develop, and what you want to accomplish. When you identify your goals and values on a personal level, they are genuine and authentic. When you identify leadership on a personal level, you develop the authenticity required to become a leader of an organization. According to Winston Churchill, "The key to a leader's impact is sincerity. Before he can inspire with emotion, he must be swayed by it himself. Before he can move their tears, his own must flow. To convince them, he must himself believe."
Leadership of others begins with leadership of self. Until you identify leadership on a personal level, you can never truly become an effective leader of an organization. Organizational success begins with personal success.
Realizing the vision involves a shared commitment and responsibility throughout the organization. This involves an ability to influence others to become committed to new directions and the ability to lead people to higher levels of performance. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing today's leaders. As we continue to shift our emphasis away from the traditional role of managing and controlling, we need to improve our understanding of human behavior and how to bring out the best in people. For many leaders, this means change. They must change habits; change cultures; and change skills that were founded in the "top down, authoritarian, management- knows-all" days; to skills that will help people think and take responsibility for their work, their actions, and their success.
Regardless of external circumstances, rank, or previous experience you can improve your leadership skills. Leadership qualities stem from internal attitudes and learned skills, not outside situations. Effective leadership consists of more than just an intellectual understanding of leadership characteristics. The characteristics and skills must be incorporated into your style. They must be consistent with your beliefs and values, and part of your actions and decisions.
In life, leaders come in all shapes, genders, ages, and religious beliefs. They can be found in our churches, synagogues, communities, schools, and businesses. On the job, effective leaders are found at all levels. They can be found in any capacity in any organization. They inspire others, improve outcomes, bring out the best in people, make mistakes, and continuously learn and improve. Your success as a leader depends on your ability to influence behavior and align your resources in the direction that will ensure continued success.
One of the basic ingredients of successful leadership is knowing when to lead, when to follow, and when to encourage self leadership. Leadership involves persuading others to accomplish vision-driven goals. As a leader, your role involves:
• Establishing a vision,
• Effectively communicating that vision,
• Persuading others to be committed to realizing the vision,
• Clarifying values,
• Exhibiting behaviors consistent with these values,
• Determining strategies,
• Focusing on long-term direction,
• Challenging the status quo,
• Doing the right things, and
• Aligning resources to support the vision.