“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
In his excellent article on leadership (https://www.leadershipnow.com/KevinDaley.html) Kevin Daley makes the following observation: “Many of the defining characteristics needed for effective leadership — like having a vision, integrity, commitment and resilience – are innate.” He goes on to talk about the ability to influence and mobilise others as something that can be learned.
I disagree with the first assertion and agree with the second and I think this is important when considering leadership and authority because if you accept that you are born a certain way and can’t change that, you stop trying to become more than you are. As Socrates said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy on building something new,” [Paraphrased] and you cannot focus all your energy on something that you don’t believe can occur. Human beings often resist change, but we are uniquely equipped to rise to the occasion when we choose to do so.
Leadership and authority are twin pillars in the challenge of building a profitable business that makes a positive impact on the world.
When You Choose to Become a Leader, You Learn the Skills You Need
Vision, integrity, commitment and resilience absolutely can all be learned or developed… if you have the perseverance and motivation to do so. Yes, I know, it takes commitment to persevere and to develop the dream, but to say that you are either born with those attributes or not is extremely limiting.
No one is born with all the skills they need to rise to the occasion and become the person they need to be for their family, friends, or country. Along the way they make choices which determine whether they will be victor or victim… or simply part of the scenery.
Vision: Your Business Needs a Leader… Are You Ready to Become One?
The global business landscape is changing and there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty around that whiff of change. The question is will you hunker down because of that fear, or will you create a visionary business that uses it to evolve and become something bigger?
There is always opportunity to be found in the midst of catastrophe… and it doesn’t need to be at the expense of others, it can be in service to them! The important things to stay focused on is what you want to achieve and what change might open the doors for that achievement.
Maybe you think that you aren’t innately visionary… That may be true, but you do dream of certain things that you’d like to have in your life, don’t you? If so, ask yourself:
- What do I need to change to make this happen?
- What new skills do I need to learn to accomplish this?
- What choices could I make to open the door to this possibility?
- What signs might indicate that opportunity is knocking?
- Do I need some help with implementing my vision?
Your willingness to pay the price of leadership is an essential part of your business’ success in a changing economy.
Integrity: An Essential Business Leadership Quality in Times of Change
Integrity: ”the state of being whole or undivided in pursuit of a goal,” is an essential quality of leadership. People don’t follow those who are half-hearted of changeable because they don’t trust their direction. I have deliberately ignored the more common definition of integrity as: “honesty and strong moral principles” because these lack the sense of direction that leadership requires. Most fanatics, heroes, cult leaders, and dictators could claim to have “honesty and strong moral principles” and those who follow their leadership tacitly agree, while those who question them could still agree that they are “undivided in pursuit of a goal”.
If you do not wholeheartedly believe that you are headed in the right direction and applying the right methodology to get there, then you are a manager who just needs to go through the motions, rather than a leader who needs burning passion and single-mindedness.
If you don’t yet have this passion, then ask yourself:
- What business goal am I (or could I be) in 100% pursuit of?
- What business purpose or principle could (or would) I be willing to stake my life on?
Once you have decided what this pursuit is, you can use that goal to shape your decisions and become the person of integrity that you need to be if you are going to lead others effectively.
Commitment: to Your Business Activities, Employees, and Results
Commitment is born of vision and integrity, and is an essential quality for leaders in business or any other arena. Without the leader’s clear commitment there is no reason for anyone else to be committed to results either. Employees are particularly conscious of this characteristic because their future depends to some extent on the business owner’s commitment.
While leaders need to be open to new opportunities and changes in the marketplace, they also need to be conscious of the lure of ‘bright shiny objects’ which can draw them away from their core commitments. As a leader, when you commit to a course of action it is important to keep following that course until success even when tempted by different possibilities. Unless your followers can rely on your perseverance, they are unlikely to follow with the enthusiasm required to succeed at difficult tasks.
- What path am I committed to following no matter what happens?
- What activities does this entail?
- What am I doing to ensure that these activities take place ‘no matter what’?
Resilience and Failure: In Business and Life
Whatever modern educational practice seems to suggest, failure is part of life and resilience is an essential quality for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world.
The men and women whose names and actions we remember today: leaders, inventors, explorers, change-agents, innovators did not succeed in a vacuum, nor did they succeed at their first attempt. Edison famously said of making a light bulb, “I have found 999 ways that don’t work.” Leaders are people who are willing to try new approaches, keep pursuing possibilities, and continue facing failure in pursuit of their dream.
Can resilience be learned, or is it innate? Resilience can certainly be ‘unlearned’. When we lived in Chad many years ago we saw the efforts of some UN agencies to deprive the local people of resilience in their food security as they brought in unnecessary foreign food aid to the benefit of government officials and merchants and to the detriment of local farmers who eventually simply gave up. We see the same thing in children today when they are encouraged to stop working at subjects for which they don’t seem to show natural talent and focus on their strengths.
Resilience is learned when we want something enough to be willing to do it badly, to fail, to be criticised (constructively or not) and to keep getting up again until we eventually learn how to do it well… even if that doesn’t mean that we are ‘the best’ at it. Leaders without this kind of resilience won’t last. Sooner or later they take the path of least resistance (or least criticism) and either give up, or refuse to work with people who ask hard questions.
If you want to develop resilience then:
- Find people who care enough about you or the result you are committed to achieving to ask hard questions and offer critical feedback;
- Do things that don’t come easily, challenge yourself, and hold yourself to your commitments even when you fail;
- Learn to see failure as a discovery process rather than an outcome.
Leadership and Authority in Business and Beyond
Leadership demands some degree of authority. Without a willingness to be seen as an authority, to stand up for what you believe, and to assert your ideas and processes authoritatively you cannot lead effectively.
In business, your willingness to assert your authority will determine the respect and influence you have on your clients, and ultimately the results you deliver. I learned early in my career as a copywriter that if I leave certain facets of the implementation to clients they don’t get the results that they or I would like. At that point I began to say: “If you won’t do this, then you are wasting your money doing that.” I lost some prospective clients at that point, but I gained far more in satisfaction and results for the clients I did work with that it was eminently worthwhile.