Leaders and leadership are top-of-the-mind subjects among businesspeople, coaches, athletes, politicians, clergy, and individuals in all walks of life. We demand more from our leaders every day but do little to prepare people for the leadership roles they take on during their lives. To paraphrase Shakespeare, some people are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and others have leadership thrust upon them. By whatever means a person attains a leadership position, there are five essential qualities that he or she must possess to be successful as a leader over time.
1. Above all else, a leader must have COURAGE. The majority of people fail to achieve the quality of life they seek because they are shackled by their own fears. Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It’s not that the courageous leader is not afraid. Everyone is afraid at one time or another. Courage is the will to press on, to do what is necessary and what is right, to overcome obstacles even when afraid. It isn’t courage if you’re not afraid. The only antidote for fear is courage.
2. Fear has a partner in crime – self-doubt. Self-doubt is that little voice in your head that says, “You can’t get that promotion, you’ll never make the team, you aren’t attractive enough, or you just can’t cut it.” Fortunately, there is an antidote for self-doubt as well: CONFIDENCE. Confidence is the unshakable belief in yourself that you can make happen what you want to happen. It’s not the self-doubt that limits you; it’s your reaction to that self-doubt. Confidence allows you to keep trying until you get better, to seek help and advice, to ignore the well-meaning spectators who are ready at your first misstep to tell you that it can’t do it right, you never were good enough, and you never will be. Confidence is infectious. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you.
3. Even if a leader is courageous and confident, if he or she does not have the capacity for intense CONCENTRATION, that leader is likely to drift off course. Concentration has two parts. The first is persistence, the most important determining factor in an individual’s success. Persistence is the unwillingness to quit until the goal is achieved. Persistence does not require talent, only determination. The second component of concentration is focus, or the ability to stay on track, organize oneself, and reduce debilitating distractions. Great leaders have the ability to separate what is immediately pressing from what is truly important.
4. Why are leaders able to inspire others? It’s because they have PASSION for what they do and what they believe in. They are consistently enthusiastic, upbeat, and optimistic. They bring a genuine joy to whatever they do. Even when things are not going well, they can instill in others the belief that together they can make the situation better. Great leaders are also committed to whatever they undertake. Commitment means throwing yourself into whatever you do with everything you have. It has been said that some people drink from the fountain of knowledge while others only gargle. Leaders don’t gargle.
5. Finally, leaders must have a strong sense of VALUES if they are to succeed in the long term. Values are enduring standards of behavior. They are the stuff upon which our reputations are built. They help us determine whom we can count on, how people will react in given situations, and whom we want as friends. The chances are good that if you follow the golden rule, do the right thing when nobody is looking, and live your life the way your grandmother told you to you will be demonstrating a sense of values that others will readily respect and follow.