If you run your own business, or manage a business for somebody else, you’ll doubtless understand the importance of leadership. You will have witnessed the powerful benefits of confident leadership: contented and motivated employees, satisfied and loyal customers, all combining to produce a business that is commercially successful. You will also have heard or read about, or possibly experienced, the destruction wreaked by people in responsible positions who have little or no leadership qualities. The damage inflicted on businesses with poor leadership includes unhappy staff, poor productivity and dissatisfied customers, all of which add up to poor financial performance and a very uncertain future.
When business is difficult, it’s hard not to take it personally. After all, it was your personal dream and ambition that got you into business in the first place: the dream of being your own boss, the dream of having a better lifestyle, the dream of creating financial security for you and those you care about. So, when business is difficult, it invariably impacts on your personal life through stress, irritability and preoccupation with finances when you should be spending time on yourself and on those you care about. Not a very happy situation, I think you’ll agree.
So what is this thing they call leadership? The theories abound. Some are called contingency theories, and focus on the different types of leader required in different situations. Others, called trait theories, consider the personality characteristics of different leaders and their leadership styles. Whatever theory you subscribe to, the reality of leadership is that, to be a successful leader, you need to be able to create a vision, communicate that vision, and motivate others towards its fruition. These activities require creativity, inspiration and an exceptionally strong level of self-belief.
This brings us face to face with an inescapable truth: your success as a leader, as with anything in your business or personal life, is about you. It’s about your self confidence, your self-esteem, your belief in your ability to realise your vision, your natural talents, and your self awareness. How do you become one of those people who radiates self-belief, high energy, and an indestructible faith in their own vision and in their ability to fulfil that vision? Do you have what it takes to be that kind of person?
That energy, that vision, along with an indestructible self-belief is right inside of all of us. It always has been. Most of us have covered it over and hidden it from ourselves with a toxic cloud of self-doubt, self-criticism, worry, pessimism and anxiety. That toxic cloud can, with some self-understanding and some small changes to how we live through our day, be blown away. And when it’s gone, you’ll be absolutely amazed at what will be revealed inside of yourself: the resources, talents and behaviours that will change your business and improve your life beyond recognition.
How many times have you been introduced to some whom you would describe as really successful? And how many times have you been taken aback at how little such people seem to conform to our stereotype of the successful and effective leader? There is a great and powerful leader in all of us. All it takes is to be true to yourself, and to be as honest in recognising your powerful talents and potential as you are at remembering your past mistakes.
True leadership is about how you create and behave in pursuit of your dream. And how you behave is a function of how you think, which is, in turn, shaped by your belief systems. “Whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right!”
Question your most deeply embedded beliefs about yourself, about others, and about the world you inhabit. Look at things from a different angle. Stop identifying with your most strongly held beliefs and allow yourself to be wrong about some of your most fundamental assumptions. Therein leads the road to change. That’s what will lead you onto the path of self awareness, self respect, self belief and fearless creativity.
And that’s the path that others will want to follow. That’s real leadership!
Nicky O’Brien is Director of Training and Outplacement with Hartley People