Leadership Coach, and author of Leadership Just Got Personal, Steven Fulmer, explained that owning a business doesn’t make you a leader any more than owning a car makes you a mechanic.
There’s a reason too many business owners fail to lead and it’s not just the lack of a plan or a vision. The simple fact is that too few people actually see themselves as a leader and, therefore, too many people start jobs not businesses. Jobs don’t necessarily need leadership, but businesses do, and you will know you have done well as a leader because in doing so, you will work yourself out of the job.
Everyone is born with the gift of leadership, but not enough have the courage to unwrap the gift. So if you really want to Lead your business, let’s start there, with the gift of leadership. If we were to unwrap it we would find 5 core parts to the gift:
1. A Crystal Ball: How do Crystal Balls work? You ask it a powerful question and it reveals the answer. It turns out we project more into the crystal then the crystal actually shows us. So what would you project into this crystal ball if we asked it to show us an example of a great leader? Could you see one? Who would it reveal? Would it be a past president, your grandmother, a teacher, a coach, your best friend, your best friend’s mom…? Who would you honor with the title of A Great Leader? And Why!? If you were to see them living their great leadership, what would you see, what are their attributes, qualities and behaviors? What do they do, how to they behave, how do you feel when you are around them? This is the crystal ball insight that a surprising large number of people can’t see. So stare into it until you do. If you don’t have an idea of what great leadership is, how can you expect to grow into it?
2. A Mirror: What do you see when you look into this? Hint: It’s the new face of leadership. This can be the hardest gift to receive because so many resist it, deny it, question it, turn away when they come face-to-face with their own leadership. But if you can come to look squarely in that mirror and hold the gaze of that eye staring back at you, you can meld together these first two gifts together. Treat the person in the mirror the way that great leader you revealed in the crystal ball treats everyone else, with the same respect, the same compassion, the same sense of greatness and possibility. To lead, you must simply see yourself as a leader and then treat yourself the same way you would treat others.
3. A Map: Maps are powerful things, but they are only, truly valuable if you know one thing. Do you know what it is? The destination. If you don’t know where you are going, maps are of little value. But once you know where you are wanting to get to, they are amazing because they can show you the fastest route, the scenic route, the longest route, and the detours when the road gets washed out or construction gets in your way. It is true that leaders have a plan, but great leaders know that plans, like routes, need to remain flexible enough to adapt. As we learn, we grow and evolve, and while there are times to stay the course, there are equally as many times to recalibrate the route.
4. An Invitation: This is huge. First of all, without people what is there to lead? We don’t lead ideas, or machines. We lead people. And as leaders, our job isn’t to bend them to our will, to make them agree with us or to force their behavior, it’s to inspire them, to lift them up, to help them be a better version of themselves then they can be on their own. So at some point, all leaders find themselves sharing their vision, their destination objective with others. And great leaders don’t hire, they invite. What are you inviting people to be a part of? If the people around you are just tools for you to use at your will, their loyalty will wain. If, however, there is a connection to their dreams, their goals, who they want to be in the world… then people become engaged, connected, committed to the cause and see you as host and sherpa. Leadership, you realize, doesn’t exist without people, even if the only people you are leading is you, so what exactly are you inviting people to be a part of - a job or a chance to impact the world - and why this vision versus some alternative? How will the world be a better place? Who will you serve? Why do they care?
5. A Lion: This almost goes without saying, but leadership can’t exist without Courage. Leadership requires of us the courage to trust in ourself, to risk being wrong, to be able to own it when we are. Courage, as we well know, isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the willingness to act in spite of the fear. And leadership takes courage to act, to risk being seen, to stand strong in opposition and to invite it in so you can challenge your thinking and make better decisions. You will be criticized and misunderstood and wrong. Being wrong is never the problem. Being defeated by the wrong is the problem. There’s a reason this gift comes last. Many people get here and think, “yeah, I get it, it takes courage, blah, blah, blah, but where do I actually get the courage, is there a courage superstore somewhere? Can I buy it by the case on Amazon, what?! I wish you could , but here’s the deal, you find it in the four previous gifts. You will find as you build your small business, that courage grows in direct proportion, sometimes exponential proportion, to your ability to execute the first four gifts. The clearer you get on what great leadership looks like, and who you want to be as a leader; the more confidently you can look in the mirror and own that you are a leader (perhaps a leader in progress, but a leader nonetheless); once you get clear on where you are going and have the map that can guide you and help you adapt; once you learn to reach out to people through inspiration, inviting them into what is possible, connecting them and their dreams with your business and your dreams, a funny thing happens -- Courage grows, it gets bigger and stronger and begins to feed the other gifts as they grow and get more clear.
Leadership isn’t something bestowed upon you, it’s cultivated from within you and manifest in your attitude, actions and behavior. At a deeper level you could even say that one’s ability to lead is less defined by what they say and more defined by what people experience of them.