During my lifetime I have had the privilege of watching many leaders in action. People like my parents set a tone that hard work would always pay rewards; or my college professor who inspired me to reach for new heights. I often think of many of my coaches who pushed me harder than I thought possible to achieve more than I could only dream.
Each one of them had a different style and used their areas of strength or personality to their advantage. The one thing that was common in all of the great leaders that I served under was that they all did three things well:
- They educated.
- They innovated.
- They elevated.
One of the first things a great leader has to do is to educate those that will follow them. There has to be a reason to follow the leader and that begins with a purpose. In order to first understand the purpose, you must educate and teach the reason to follow. This can be in the form of one on one coaching; it can be as a result of great presentations or speeches; or in many cases just by setting a great example. But all great leaders need to first educate before people will follow.
Another key of all great leaders is the ability to innovate. All great leaders have a vision or an idea of how to do things differently. This begins with innovation and the ability to think about things in a new perspective. However, we often get bogged down in the day to day activities, and do not make time for innovative thinking. I have read articles about Bill Gates of Microsoft and am often impressed that twice a year he takes "think weeks" to do nothing but think. Most of us are not in a position to take two weeks a year to go into seclusion and do nothing but think; however, a great majority of us don't even devote two hours a year to think.
Finally, all great leaders have the ability to elevate others. We often think of great coaches as having the ability to inspire and motivate their team to achieve more than they thought possible. It is no different in the business world or in the classroom where a leader elevates the performance of others. Recently we celebrated Martin Luther King day - there are few men that had the ability to elevate others as Martin Luther King did. Decades after his passing we still are moved by his speeches and the power of his words. Every time I hear his “I Have a Dream” speech I am moved.
Mark Sanborn authored a wonderful book titled You Do Not Need a Title to be a Leader.
In that book, he makes the point that anyone can lead. Too often people think they need to have a title or be empowered to lead. The reality is that we all are being watched and followed by someone whether we know it or not. So, today I ask you how are you doing in your role as a leader? Are you educating yourself so that you have the ability to teach others? What great books have you read lately? Are you innovative? Are you spending time in thought, looking for ways to improve a process? Are you elevating yourself so that others might be inspired to follow? Great leaders do not settle on being average, they are constantly striving for excellence!