Leadership is often perceived as being in short supply.

But whatever our job description, we are all leaders some of the time. Parents need to lead their children. Anyone in a healthy relationship will have times of being the leader and other times of being led. Even though leadership may not be a full time occupation, we all have moments when others look to us for direction, guidance and support.

My experience as an entrepreneur, an innovator, an employer, a mentor, parent, consultant, trainer and coach has made me very aware that I need to lead in different ways with different people. Nevertheless becoming clear about my own style of leadership has been very important for me both personally and professionally.

I have found leadership, is like charity – it begins at home.

To be a good leader of others you first need to know how to lead yourself – and when you can lead yourself, you can lead others.

I often refer to this as learning to pace yourself. In other words, being true to yourself and not trying to force yourself to be anything that deep down you know isn’t really you.

Leadership is about becoming the leader that is already within you.

So often when I’m working with senior executives my function is to draw out what they may not have not recognised they have within themselves. Frequently this means allowing the leader within to come out – as opposed to teaching slick tricks or having to stick ‘leadership’ on from the outside (much as you might stick wall cladding on a house to cover up cracks).

When you are true to yourself, leadership comes without effort. It emanates and radiates – and it has strong attractor properties.

Put another way, leadership is about personal congruence. And the key to personal congruence is being able to pace yourself. To pace yourself you need to be able to honour and acknowledge the different aspects of yourself whether you like them or not. If this sounds like a tall order, the good news is that the ways to achieve this can all be taught.

In doing this in my own life I have found myself changing and becoming more aligned. I sometimes describe it as a feeling that the different parts of me are all going in the same direction. I find my clients want this too. The pay-off is enormous as you are truly able to walk your talk.

This produces a particular kind of leadership style – leading by example. Ultimately this is about leading by being: being one whose behaviour is naturally aligned with who you are and what matters to you. My experience is that once people know they can have this, they want it very badly because it is profoundly healing and very empowering.

Leading by example, whether at work or in your personal life, is empowering and it’s good news for others.

It means acting with personal purpose stemming from a centred sense of self. It is centred because it steers a safe course between grandiose self-promotion and punitive self-criticism. Too often people oscillate violently between these two extremes.

Leaders who are empowered have as a high priority the empowerment of those they lead.

Expect such people to be: (i) clearer about what matters to them and more able to be themselves; (ii) not just confident but truly competent; (iii) innovative because they are able to adapt.

To enhance someone’s ability to be a leader, one must first enhance the individual who will be that leader.

There is no better way to do this than to draw out of an individual his or her own unique vision and mission. Why? Because these are born of that person’s identity, their very sense of self. This is real Leadership Coaching.

To identify one’s mission in life is a profound experience. It matters a lot to people and stays with them. It is also the secret of creating inspirational leaders.

It often has two unexpected side effects. People begin to become more successful. They also become more innovative.


Final thoughts…

So being a leader is not about commanding vast armies of people, nor is it about having power over others.

People who seek power over others are usually chronically disempowered individuals themselves.

Nor is leadership about control: the better you are as a leader the more you are able to influence. The more influential you are, the less you need to try to control.

Once your sense of self and your mission are aligned with what you do, you become unstoppable. Think about it. How could you not do your mission if it is a natural expression of who you are?

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Ian McDermott on Innovation

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