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How do I Become a Better Leader?


Can you become a better leader?

Is it something you can learn or, are you born with leadershp skills?

James Clawson asks these questions in his article “Is Leadership Born or Built? in the Washington Post.

Experts have lots of opinions.

Nigel Nicholson author of Executive’s Instinct suspects there may be ‘a leadership gene,’ that some people are simply born to ‘be in charge.’

Noel Tichy author of The Leadership Engine from the University of Michigan says leadership style and ability emerge from experience.

One corporate executive says leadership is irrelevant.  A company’s performance is all about the proper employment contracts.

So, can you learn to be a good leader?

Clawson says yes.

He believes leadership is about managing energy, first within yourself and then helping others.  I find when I manage my own energy well, others naturally do the same.  No need to help them, it just happens!

What else?

A leader is deeply committed to an outcome that others can engage in, understand, and share—beyond just making or counting money or widgets.

Deep commitment implies clarity of vision.  Recognizing one’s vision is often neglected.  Too often, it is missing.

No one denies making or counting money or fulfilling a contract is important.  However, when it is the primary or only driver for a leader, clarity of vision is lost.

Two Kinds of Leaders

There are two kinds of leaders says Clawson.

Type 1 leaders who are pretty much out to make themselves wealthy or collect a paycheck.

Type 2 leaders are in it for what they want to build – that is the vision they want to bring into the world.  Type 2 leaders are more rare and more in demand.

Reading Walter Isaacson’s biography about Steve Jobs, the legendary CEO of Apple, was eye-opening in this regard.

Jobs described Microsoft as mostly interested in transactions (making money), not so interested making really great products.  They held a very short term view.

In contrast, Steve Jobs was dedicated to changing the world with the best designed computer products possible.  He never wavered in this vision.

Even though Steve Jobs died some time ago, Microsoft still cannot keep up with Apple.  Apple’s vision and its resulting products have made it the most valuable brand in the world.  Huge value is continually created from ‘how’ Apple develops these products.  This ‘how’ was born of the vision birthed by Jobs, (but much bigger than Jobs).

Step 1: Find Your Vision

Find your vision – for yourself and for your organization, before you die.  That is Clawson’s request to us as leaders.

Step 2: Train the Mind for Leadership

Once a vision is clear, continuously train the mind for leadership.

We train the mind to submit to and be aware of the natural unfolding of our vision in the world.

How do you train the mind in this way?

The unfolding of your vision, what you came into the world to do, what you  came to this job to do, is the most natural thing there is.

We get distracted and pulled away from this natural process or path.

So training the mind is mostly about getting un-distracted.  You actually know what to do.

Distractions, old patterns and habits interrupt the natural unfolding.  These interruptions are stressful, even painful as they knock us off this natural path.  We stay with them however, because they are familiar.

Whether you are destined to be the best office manager, the best accountant, the best business owner, the best program manager, the best CEO, or the best house keeper, there is a path each of us longs for deep inside.

Are you conscious of this longing?

Or are you too confused or too distracted to notice?

It is stressful to be out of alignment with with our natural unfolding and the deeper knowledge we each have as human beings.

This stress is reflected in confusion, poor communication, a lot of unnecessary tension working with others, difficulty meeting goals, but most of all, frustration.

Is it possible to get back on the path?  Yes!

Start by realizing:

  • You are not your thoughts OR your stress OR your difficulties.

These are distractions.  When you are ‘in the stress,’ it is very difficult to see what is really happening.  Vision is lost.

Take the time and space to find your true path.  Find your vision for your work and life.  It is perhaps the most important thing you can do.

Entering a new path

Here is an exercise to try.  Take a some time to imagine what it is you want to create in the position you are in.

How would your department or team function if things were going really well?  Write this down.  Add pictures, draw.  Let your mind have space to really envision what this would look like.  What might you be able to  accomplish together?  What beauty or harmony can you imagine bringing into the world?   Can you imagine how would it be to love your work and the people you do it with?  What would be required?

This is a place to begin.

Want some help in finding in findng your vision?  Contact us.  We help leaders uncover their visions and then give them legs to bring them into the world.   Join us.

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