Do you want to shine as a leader but don’t know how? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. Most perspectives about the characteristics leaders should have for exemplary leadership focus on attaining a specific set of traits. Just consider all the different types of leadership there are. Although tremendous amounts of research on leadership are available, there is no single irrefutable list of traits or qualities for great leadership. So why do we spend so much time, effort, and money trying to emulate other great leaders?
Here’s a challenge: Select 10 random sources from lists citing great leaders, magazine articles, or best-selling books; lay them side by side and compare the traits of these great leaders. How many of the same characteristics did you identify? It is very unlikely that you’ll find two lists that are identical. While there may be a few shared characteristics, the differences in leadership traits will be all over the board and outnumber the similarities. This is because when leadership shines, or what I refer to as Shiny Leadership, it’s a result of an individual finding and using his or her unique formula as a leader.
Expanding Your View of Leadership
If we broaden our view, we can see that there are many roads a leader can take to get to the elusive mountaintop of great leadership. Over the course of this journey, no two leaders will demonstrate the same set of leadership traits. By embracing an expansive view of leadership instead of defined-trait models, we’ll encourage many more people to discover their leadership capabilities and step forward to demonstrate shiny leadership in their own individual way.
Let’s look at an example of this point: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are both recognized as important leaders in the American civil rights movement. Dr. King became a very prominent public leader of the massive movement and received a Nobel Prize for his work. He organized large groups of people, gave public speeches, and served as the moral authority and spokesperson for the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks, on the other hand, rose up to situationally lead when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. She was a quiet, hard-working woman that became a public figure and leader from a single, yet unforgettable, act of leadership.
Photo sources: Dr. King Jr. – PBS.org http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/civil-rights-leaders/#.VfHsW3gdFkg; Rosa Parks – http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/iml04.soc.ush.civil.parks/rosa-parks/
I think it’s fair to say that Dr. King’s and Rosa Park’s individual roles and the manner in which they participated in the civil rights movement was very impactful yet different. Under most defined-trait leadership models, Rosa Parks would never be recognized as a great leader compared to Dr. King due to the significant differences between them in leadership characteristics, methods, and actions. And yet, I wonder if Dr. King would have risen to his extraordinary level of prominence if Rosa Parks had not refused to give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
Although their individual leadership styles were very different, it doesn’t minimize that they are both viewed as significant civil rights leaders. As a take-away, each walked their own path, demonstrated different leadership traits, and held varying intentions and aspirations for leadership. They possessed unique ingredients that created an individual formula yet the result was amazing leadership contributing to the same cause.
Learning How To Shine
Shiny leadership begins with a belief that everyone can shine as a leader. The process is a combination of discovering what we foundationally have, letting go of what we don’t need, picking up some new things, and finding our secret sauce.
Here’s a four-step formula to help you become a shiny leader. This formula will produce the frame around which you can develop your own unique leadership style.
1. Know Your Core
A powerful thing happens with clarity. Have you ever heard a bell ring that reaches into every corner and fills the room with a strong and clear tone? Something similar happens when we have clarity inside ourselves about what’s important at our core. Knowing what you stand for, the things in which you’re unshakeable, you begin to gain clarity into your core.
When you have certainty and transparency around your core values and beliefs, solidness comes in that prevents you from being unsteady and wobbly. People can feel when you’re wobbly; it’s an energetic feeling that transmits loudly to others without you saying a word. People don’t follow someone who feels wobbly because it’s unsettling, and they don’t feel safe. Tuning within and gaining clarity to your foundational values and principles enables you to understand your internal wiring that is the bedrock to shine as a leader.
2. Eliminate diminishing traits
We all have experienced circumstances and events that have had negative impacts on our lives. As a result, at some point and time most of us have accepted beliefs and ideas about ourselves that diminish us instead of helping us grow and expand. Our shininess is covered over by the things that hold us back.
What are these diminishing traits? It’s the little voices of insecurity that cause you to hesitate from stepping forward. Or maybe it’s one of the seven fears that make you afraid to shine as a leader. Perhaps it’s the fear of failure or even the fear of success. A deflating trait can become rooted when we lose the courage to initiate something where we’ve seen others fail. The list of diminishing traits is unlimited and often unique to its owner.
To develop shiny leadership, we have to let go of these constricting fears, emotions, and habits that hold us back.
3. Add growth skills
Shiny leaders are always learning, growing and advancing, so it’s important to continuously be adding new leadership skills and techniques. When you stop expanding and moving forward and start to think that you’re done, the cobwebs and dust settles and your leadership will begin to dull and lose its luster.
The formula for shiny leadership includes being a learner, evaluating and adding new skills and competencies that resonate with you. By being free to try on new leadership skills and traits, you’ll learn which traits are meant to blend into your select formula.
4. Find Your Secret Sauce
There is at least one time in every leader’s career when they’ve done something that demonstrated brilliance. Think about that time in your life and, specifically, what you did. It was uniquely yours, amazing, and perhaps you had no idea it was in you. I like to refer to that trait you demonstrated as your “secret sauce”.
It’s an internal aspect that you already possess, and you may not be aware of its potential and power. The situation in which you demonstrated it may have faded from memory. Or perhaps you haven’t paused to recognize the significance of this trait in the past, but this secret sauce is a powerful ingredient to your formula that belongs uniquely to you.
Each path to shiny leadership is different and everyone has a unique and individual formula. #Best Advice. Just apply the ingredients:
- Discover your core
- Release diminishing traits
- Add growth skills
- Stir in your secret sauce
Following this recipe, anyone can be a shiny leader. However, it doesn’t do any good to acquire these ingredients and then sit on your leadership. You must move into conscious actions. At some point, the only way to become a shiny leader is for you to start acting like one.
If you enjoyed this post, please click the “Follow” or “Like” buttons below and/or share with others. You might also enjoy these other posts I’ve written:
- What Kind of Leader Are You?
- Are You Afraid To Shine As A Leader?
- Where Do You Look For Leadership?
- How To Communicate With Compassion During Change
- Change Strategies For Powerful Leaders: Eliminate These Five Trust Busters
Feel free to visit my website at tuningwithin.com for more information on leadership.
Carly Vivian is President and Co-Founder of Cogency Group. She advises leaders and organizations how to develop leaders that shine and flow through change with ease, excitement and enthusiasm.