I’ve been coaching people on personal leadership for 20 years now and have long advocated that people give up the limiting idea of “born leaders”. Each one of us has the potential for leadership. Every one of us has the need for personal leadership; that is:
- Understanding who you are and what gives your life value and meaning.
- Authentic self-expression that adds value through relationships.
- Establishing your life’s purpose and pursuing it with confidence, skill, commitment and resiliency.
- Knowing where you are going and how you plan to get there.
Everyone has the ability to develop leadership characteristics and skills. Personal leadership is necessary for true success. Leadership and success go hand in hand. I find the most useful definition of success to be one developed by Resource Associates Corporation:
Success is the continual achievement of your own predetermined goals, stabilized by balance and purified by belief.
My 10-year-old son, Ryan, has Down syndrome, is a special education student in a regular classroom and has a functional IQ far below the average person. Yet Ryan is an effective leader and a very successful boy. He amazes his mom and dad to no end, of course, but he amazes people wherever he goes. What makes Ryan a successful leader? He knows the good he wants from people, recognizes opportunities to add value through relationships with people, and acts with passion when the opportunity presents itself.
Yet why do so few people develop their capabilities and potential for success? One distinct reason – I recognize it in myself at times – is the tendency to “wait for the right opportunity”. Here I find is the dividing line, “the razor’s edge” between leaders and followers:
- Followers wait for the right opportunity as a reason to act.
- Leaders create opportunities to act for right reasons.
Author John Maxwell, in his Leadership Bible uses a passage in Isaiah to outline three distinct factors that make up the call to lead. He points to Isaiah 6:1-8, when the prophet accepts the call of God with a certain response of “Here I am. Send me.” I address those same three factors in a different order for reasons I won’t go into here, but the order isn’t sequential anyway; all three elements are of equal importance to the Call of a Leader.
- Opportunity – Leaders recognize a specific place, time or issue where we can make a difference. Our timing is right because we have the courage to take action now on the things that are important to us. We know what is important before the opportunity arises because we know what we value most.
- Desire – Desire begins with the belief in possibilities and that the risk of creating something better outweighs the benefit or consequence of accepting current circumstances. Possibility gives rise to hope and hope is the root of passion. Leaders want to risk action at critical opportunities because their passion for what they desire most drives them like hunger drives the starving man to find food.
- Ability – Leaders recognize they have the gifts to do something about the need at hand. This involves competence in various things, sometimes the ability to take direct action, sometimes the ability to influence others to act, sometimes the ability to learn something new. Ability is not just about skills and knowledge, however. With leaders, it also involved attitudes, habits and the ability to set and achieve goals. If we only took action as leaders when we are fully confident in our own current ability, we might never act on anything.
- What are a few (2-3) distinct things that give value and purpose to your life?
- How are these shaping your authenticity and action through your relationships with others?
- Have you established your life’s purpose? How do you describe your purpose?
- Where are you now as a leader? Where are you going?
- What opportunities are before you today to act like the leader you have the potential to be?
Leaders live at The Intersection of Purpose & Now.