There are numerous definitions of “leadership.” No matter how you look at it, leadership is really about inspiring people to achieve goals.
It takes effective leadership to successfully achieve goals, regardless of whether they are tied to revenues and profits, a desired future state of a country, implementing a new programme or promoting a cause.
Then there is the eternally debated question – “Are leaders born or made?”
While I won’t attempt to definitively answer this question, I do know that there are some people for whom inspiring others to achieve goals comes naturally. There are others who, with coaching and formal training, perform remarkably well as strong, successful leaders.
Having served in formal leadership positions in the corporate world and in voluntary and not-for-profit organizations, I am convinced that a key determinant of success is the personal motivation to lead.
Those who aspire to leadership positions must really want to lead and must be highly motivated to achieve goals through and with the people they lead.
To determine their level of personal motivation, aspiring leaders and experienced leaders considering a new mandate, should be able to answer these two questions –
- Do you love power more than you care about people?
- Is competing for the position more important than your commitment to the cause / vision / goals of the position?
Leaders must love people more than power.
They must be more committed to the cause than to competition.
Nothing is wrong with aspiring to positions of power.
In a civilized society, positions of power – whether corporate, social or political – provide opportunities for leaders to influence and create change that ultimately benefits people. Good, ethical leaders should be motivated to aspire to positions of power because of the opportunity it affords them to help people.
Aspiring to positions of power involves competition. Competing for a position of power should really be a healthy activity, giving aspiring candidates the opportunity to demonstrate why they should be selected to lead.
When competing against other candidates, a truly authentic leader should be able to
- Clearly articulate his/her understanding of the vision of the future state he/she expects to create;
- How he/she will inspire and engage others in the creation of the vision; and
- How people will benefit from his/her leadership.
It’s not just about getting the leadership title,
it’s about being committed to the cause.
As the saying goes, “Once you’re in, you’re in.”
Once a leader is in place, success will be largely dependent on several leadership traits. For me, the most important is courage, both inner courage and outer courage.
Inner courage is the unwavering commitment to personal values and integrity, including the ability to honestly decide if the leadership position is the right fit and in the best interest of all concerned.
Public courage is about being prepared to make tough calls, unpopular decisions and persistent commitment, even in the face of scathing and unfair criticism.
Above all, at the heart of effective leadership is the desire and motivation to serve. Although leaders serve by inspiring people to achieve goals, outstanding leaders always see the big picture of the overarching benefits of achieving the goals.
More important than focusing on the position of power and the process to get there, is that every aspiring leader must be even more committed to the sustainable success of the organization, people and country they intend to lead.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.
Camille Isaacs-Morell is a proven marketing strategy and business development enabler who thrives when leading in contexts of transformation and change. She enthusiastically seeks her next leadership challenge.
Camille was motivated to write this post in the aftermath of the Brexit campaign and the US Republican and Democratic Parties’ National Conventions.