30 Sep Tell Me About Our Future

I was inspired to write a book on self-reliant leadership based on the opportunity I have had to work with many leaders – some great, many good, and a few awful ones.  What I learned is the great ones inspired me to follow them willingly, because they made me feel that I could accomplish anything.  That is, they focused on the future – my future.  Their vision was articulated in the context of what I could accomplish.  They didn’t dwell on weaknesses, or the past, rather chose to paint a picture of what could be.  They helped me use my story to change my trajectory.

In working with great bosses, it occurred to me that we learn how to be effective leaders to instigate positive change by taking advantage of three opportunities that are always present:  Crucibles, Mentors, and Hearing the Unheard.  Said another way, there are three courses you can enroll in, for life, that don’t cost a cent.  They just require you to pay attention and take advantage of your every day surroundings.

Crucibles.  We’re all dealing with something – some sort of adversity.  It’s through crisis that leaders have the opportunity to demonstrate character, optimism, persistence and determination.  If things are status quo, a good manager can simply follow established protocol.  Leaders shine when things look bleak.  Embrace adversity for the lesson to be learned.

Mentors.  Self-Reliant Leadership doesn’t mean going it alone.  It means asking yourself tough questions, and having the courage to answer them and act.  Sometimes we need help with the questions, and that’s where mentors come in.  There are plenty of people you can learn from afar, and many that are willing to help in person.  Think about asking strangers for directions.  No one ever turns away.  They usually give you way more information than you can process!  We’re wired to help each other, so look for people that are gracious trustworthy, and someone you admire and enjoy being around.

Hearing the Unheard.  This is a necessary discipline of a good leader.  It’s knowing the values, assumptions, beliefs, expectations, pains unexpressed, complaints not spoken and feelings of the people you lead.  Only then can you understand when things aren’t right, inspire confidence, and help others change their trajectory to create powerful futures.

There’s a poem called The Mirror, and it has two lines that are extremely powerful:  The good you find in others, is in you too. The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.  What you see in others, shows you yourself. See the best in others, and you will be your best.  Don’t tell me your story; use your story to tell us our future.

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