Great leaders are often thought to be ultra-outgoing firebrands that burn the candle at both ends and postpone sleep until they are dead. While many of these leaders are highly motivated and driven to succeed, few are all-in all the time. For starters, we weren’t created to run at that pace for long periods of time. Those who try to live that stereotype generally burn out long before they really make a difference.
Even so, the pace is definitely well above average. That is one of the traits of a leader that sets him or her apart. But what if the high-paced, external activities were only part of the equation? I used “Enlightened Leadership” as the title for this one but it could be Zen Leadership, or Inward-Focused Leadership” or any number of other titles. The point is that leadership isn’t just external behaviors. Frequently taking a good, long look in the mirror will lead you to working on the “soft skills” that also set the great ones apart.
ENLIGHTENED LEADERS TAKE A MINUTE TO ENJOY THE RIDE
This isn’t rocket science. How many days a week are you before the sun rises. If you’re a high performing leader, probably several. But how many sun rises have you stopped to take a look at. I don’t mean a passing glance. I mean really stopping to take it in. Admittedly, I’m not very good in this area and have to be intentional about not getting so fixated on the goal that I don’t enjoy the process. Take a minute and enjoy the “little things” that we so often overlook each day. You’ll be surprised by how much clarity that can offer.
ENLIGHTENED LEADERS MAKE RELATIONSHIPS MATTER
Call it the human touch, caring, empathy, or whatever. Taking the time to make connections with your followers is well worth the effort. Taking time to get to know someone is more than just being “nice.” When leaders make a real connection with their followers it motivates. It can even inspire other to go out of their way for you because you have shown that you would do the same for them. Don’t engage this concept as a tactic or a strategy. Look at this as adopting a different perspective on knowing and caring about the people you lead.
ENLIGHTENED LEADERS THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Really, Scott? You dug up that old cliché? Yes. Yes I did. Because I don’t think anyone really knows what it means anymore. It means that you don’t limit yourself to what is practical or even to what is possible. The last exercise my team did for planning began by making a wish list. If there were no restrictions on resources, knowledge, or even reality, what could we hope to achieve. We then moved in to the realm of possibility. Starting with no limitations caused us to constantly look to the first column of ideas and ask “Why can’t we do that?”. And the answer was never as hard as we originally thought. It changed the course of the project because rather than limiting the project to the possible, we began breaking down barriers to what we used to think was impossible.
How about you? What are some inward characteristics you have seen enlightened leaders demonstrate that made them more effective?
Scott Wilson is currently a Customer Experience Principal at a Fortune 50 company. He is also a marketing and business strategy consultant for small businesses and writes about Leadership, Communication, and Marketing on his blog at scottkwilson.com.