Do you know what the scarcest resource in the world is? It’s not platinum or any commodity. It’s leadership—passionate, strong, convicted leadership.
Essentially, leadership is influence. It’s the ability to win people over and move them to action. To be the best leader you can be, invest in developing your Real Leadership Style. When I say real, I mean true to who you are and how you live.
As a unique individual, you communicate, work and operate differently than other leaders. But at their core, true leaders all desire to help others.
I didn’t set out to be a leader in my professional life. I was just trying to navigate my way in the world and make my parents proud. But along the way I learned about myself. I figured out my strengths, weaknesses and values. I discovered that my desire to be of service forged, through a lot of trial and error, my leadership style.
I worked with my friends at SUCCESS to create this quiz so you can think about the ways you are a real leader. At the end, I suggest ways to make the most of where you are and where you’re headed.
The quiz is broken into three parts and cover the most important aspects of leadership: leading yourself, leading others and leading from the inside out.
Be honest here. Don’t hold back. Nobody is watching. This is your opportunity to find out who you are and how far you have to go to be the leader you want to become.
Part 1: Lead Yourself.
The first step to leadership is leading yourself. Too many people think, If I do this, study this, buy this course, do that other thing, then I’ll be prepared. I’ve got news for you: You’re never totally prepared to be a leader. Leadership is day-by-day personal development based on sustained action.
You start this work by knowing yourself. I could go out and build on my self-knowledge only after I decided who John Addison was.
Decide who you are. People can smell a phony. If you try to be someone you’re not, you’ll fail at leadership and at life.
When I was a young man, I had the opportunity to be around dynamic and impressive leaders. These people intimidated the heck out of me when I saw them onstage, on television or heading up large corporations. I didn’t think I could ever be like them. As time passed, I realized that a few people I thought were leaders were really just jerks. Others were baskets of insecurity. They had fears, doubts and weaknesses just as we all do.
So what I learned is I simply had to be the best John Addison I could be. I had to be true to who I am.
You are the captain of your ship. You have to develop peace and comfort with who you are, what you want to accomplish and what makes you special. Real Leadership is having the courage to live your true life, one that leans on your strengths and brings out your unique greatness. Remember that you’re not just a human being. You’re a human becoming. We all have work to do on ourselves. That’s life. So let’s join the self-improvement movement! For each question that follows, circle the option that fits you best.
Part 2: Lead Others.
Leadership is a verb, not a noun. It is an action we take daily. And it’s also the ability to inspire action in others.
Art Williams, who greatly influenced my life and founded the company A.L. Williams, where I worked for many years, used to say, “You need to always look at everybody you meet and deal with them as if they’ve got a flashing neon sign on their chest that says, ‘Make me feel special; make me feel important; I want to be somebody.’ ”
Dictatorial, tough, yelling, screaming leadership can last for a little while. Fear will motivate people at first. But it doesn’t last because ultimately people want to be made to feel special.
What lasts is when you make people feel good. I watched Art do this for years and learned that the better he made us feel, the better we did. As a leader, it’s your job to shine your light on people.
There’s a great story about when Benjamin Disraeli, then prime minister of England, was running for re-election against William Gladstone. A woman—some say it was actually Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome—met both of them at a dinner. When asked what she thought of the two, the woman replied, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when I sat next to Disraeli, I left feeling I was the cleverest woman.”
The ability to light a fire within people rather than under them, to make them feel special, to make them feel important, valued and understood—those will motivate people for the long term. Steady leaders who shine a light consistently and have a strong inner peace are lighthouses in a storm.
You should aspire to be a lighthouse so people can set their courses by you, so they know what you stand for and so you can be a beacon that helps move people forward.
Part 3: Lead From the Inside Out.
Many people think when you get a title or a job, you become a leader. But titles never make the person. The person makes the title. You’ve got to earn your position every day by practicing leadership from the inside out.
I’ve led when I had no titles, and then I’ve led when I had more titles than you could possibly imagine. The reality is your title doesn’t change who you are.
In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen compares the mind to a garden that “may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”
Keeping your mind clear of clutter you can’t control is like weeding a garden and is the only way you can maintain a clear perspective about what really matters. Whether you have a title or not, a leader needs focus. It’s vital if you want to overcome the fear that comes with being a real leader.
Yes, we all have fear. It’s what you do with that fear that matters. The people who make the biggest difference in the world turn their fears into fuel that drives them. I am motivated more by a fear of failure than by a desire to succeed. I don’t want to let anybody down. I don’t want to fail. I embrace that fear and use it to propel myself forward.
You can do the same. As a real leader, you must develop a core that is committed, sure and courageous, regardless of your title. That’s how you become the kind of person others count on when the going gets tough.
As you continue to hone your Real Leadership Style, I challenge you to keep working on yourself and keep striving to know yourself. Become a better person and a better influencer. Go out and lead others to do something great.
This article appears in the April 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.