Leaders make a difference because they are different themselves. A leader’s function is to influence and inspire the people who look to them for direction, guidance and support. What sets leaders apart from the masses is not their sex, age, or occupation. Nor is it their level of education, how much money they earn, where they came from, or whom they know. What sets true leaders apart is their awareness of, and sensitivity to, the needs of others.
Effective leaders inspire others to aim higher, work harder and smarter, accomplish more in less time, and enjoy doing it. When your company winds up in the winner’s circle, you can rest assured it wasn’t by accident. It was because you and your team collectively did their job. And you, as the company leader, did your job very well.
• You inspired your team with a vision of success.
• You were sensitive to every individual’s needs.
• You challenged your team to stay focused and on purpose.
• You encouraged and supported your team when they were down.
• You kept your team motivated, and with a desire to be winners.
• You became a mentor for your team, by setting the example, and by sharing your insight and experiences.
• You provided the common vision and goal that held the team together.
• You inspired your team to give their best despite the odds.
• You were the confident leader who encouraged your team to take initiative, and teach others how to make contributions that benefited the organization as a whole.
All these things are the principles effective leaders follow in order to remain in the winner’s circle.
A key element at the heart of effective leadership is vision, which can be defined as “seeing with your imagination.” As a leader it’s essential to know precisely where you are going, and even more importantly, why you are going there. Why do you want what you want? What compels you to do what you do? Your vision can be small or earth shaking, but it must be absolutely clear. As a leader, the clarity or fuzziness of your vision, and your commitment to that vision has a direct and vital effect on those around you.
Leadership is not a position, but rather an action. A leader is simply someone who has the courage to set the example. As leaders we live constantly under a microscope: nothing we do or say will escape the scrutiny and examination of our followers. Their activities and attitudes will then simply mirror the example we have set for them. If we don’t return phone calls, for instance, we are teaching our people by our own example, not to follow up. Thus, we must ask ourselves repeatedly, “what message am I sending? What example am I setting? What environment am I creating?” When you, as a leader, set out to make a difference, your beliefs, words and actions inspire others to follow. As a leader, setting the example comes first and foremost. In short, you as the leader are accountable.
As a leader being first or setting new records should not be the objective. There will always be someone who will break your record. It’s who you are and how you live that counts. The position doesn’t make the person. The person makes the position. People are not going to accept you as their leader because the company is number one. They are going to accept you because of the type of person you are deep down inside. Regardless of how good you are in business, people see you first as a person. Your morals and integrity, your relationship with others, everything you are counts. If you are going to be an inspiration for others to follow, they have to first be convinced that you have something valuable to offer them. They’ve got to want to follow your lead in order for you to help them.
So before you can become a great leader, you’ve got to become a great person. A leader has to be a person with real character, who truly projects honesty, integrity, commitment and sincerity. These are important because it is the foundation on which you will build everything else in your life.
So, put your principles first. When you do, you’ll find that a lot of your difficult decisions will be already made for you based upon your principles. Let everyone in your company know what principles and values are important to you. When you stand for something other than just success or money you’ll find that people will want to follow you, because you are someone they are proud to call their leader.
It’s your awareness and sensitivity to the needs of others, your awareness of the challenges others face. It’s your enthusiasm for improving things and for creating new opportunities that will make you stand out in the crowd. As an effective leader you must also be willing to serve. Your willingness and ability to serve others, and the nature and quality of service given will be the major key to the success of your organization. If you contribute your time, energy, emotions, and effort, you will have a real impact on your people, their challenges and overall performance. When you make a contribution to the well being and performance of those with whom you work, the rewards are tremendous. Your people will always mirror your own actions and attitudes.
We all want those on our team to provide the highest level of service to our clients or customers. Service is an attitude, not a department, and effective leaders know that service always starts at the top, with just one person: You. A true leader’s slogan should be, “service starts here.”
The way a leader develops his team is similar to the way a farmer plants his crops. The farmer plant seeds. Each is unique, and according to the law of averages, some will grow and some won’t. The farmer can, however increase his averages and increase his yield, simply by increasing the nourishment and attention given to his crops. It’s your job as a leader to nourish your team and to keep a constant eye out for the weeds of fear, doubt, rejection and other types of negativity that will smother your harvest.
Thus, it is absolutely essential that you, as an effective leader, take full responsibility for everything! Responsibility is defined as “the ability to respond” or “response-ability.” As leaders, our job is to influence human behavior, regardless of the goal; in other words, to “lead.” So we must never point toward someone else or an outside circumstance as the cause of our problems. That is called a pointer, not a leader. We must take full responsibility for our own actions, how we perform as a leader, and the overall performance of each individual within our company or organization.
Right now there are men and women just like you, from every walk of life, from all sorts of businesses and from every social and economic level, making a difference because they, like you, care deeply about something. They are using their leadership skills to make a difference. They are different themselves.