“Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” - Eddie Rickenbacker
John Maxwell, in his book “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” says courage is one of those key traits and that one thing in common with all leaders is the willingness to take a risk. He says some of the following traits make up courage:
-Courage begins with an inward battle - we fight ourselves and our own fears and courage is when we feel the fear and do it anyways (I LOVE that saying by the way!)
-Courage is making things right, not just smoothing things over - true leaders stand up for something. They have good people skills, but don’t appease people when the situation requires it of them. Their colors are shown when a situation is challenging or controversial for that is when true leaders step up.
-Courage in a leader inspires commitment from followers - a true leaders compels people to do the right thing and truly want to be courageous themselves.
-Your life expands in proportion to your courage - as you begin to take risks you see your life become richer, more nuanced, and with more color. It opens doors and makes the future that much better.
Courage is a true measure of a leader because everyone experiences fear and doubts and worries, but true leaders are ones who are able to experience that fear and step through it to get through to the other side. For the other side is often SO much better than where you started and it is where your power lies. What is one courageous act you can take today?
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” - Theodore Roosevelt
I love this quote from Theodore Roosevelt as I truly believe the greatest trait of a leader is his ability to relate with people and truly empathize with who they are and what they are going through. John Maxwell, in his book “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of Leader” includes relationships as one of those traits. He says, “People truly do want to go along with people they can get along with.”
He says there are 3 ways to cultivate good relationships as a leader:
-Understand People - truly understand how people think and feel, what are underlying factors that relate to all humans (wanting to feel special, success, hope, direction, and encouraged), and how to relate to their unique needs
-Love People - truly empathize with people and find the best in them
-Help People - people respect a leader who keeps their interests in mind
To me relationships mean building character, understanding others, truly getting into their heart and mind which allows you to empathize with them and truly learn how to give. Giving is the essence of it all. When other people feel you are genuinely concerned about them and care about them then they will go to the end of the earth for you.
As a leader do you invest in your people? How can you understand them, love them, or help them more? How can you make your relationships stronger?
Abraham Zaleznik in an article from the Harvard Business Review in the early 90‘s describes the difference between a manager and a leader in many ways. He describes the characteristics of a manager as they:
-Like to maintain existing systems, relationships, and processes
-Tend to mediate, negotiate, and balance opposing viewpoints
-Like to work with others, but keep a low level of emotional involvement
-Like structure and are survival oriented when it comes to taking risk
The characteristics of a leader from Zaleznik’s point of view are:
-Adopt a personal and active attitude towards goals by evoking images, moods and expectations of the direction a business could take
-Are risk takers and idea generators
-Relate in more intuitive and empathetic ways - get involved in thinking through how things affect people
-Are described with adjectives rich in emotional content
-They develop through personal mastery, which impels an individual to struggle for psychological and social change
-Are more like artists, scientists, and other creative thinkers than like managers
These descriptors are fascinating to me as it relates that managers are great at keeping the status quo - making current systems, processes, and structures as efficient, effective, and productive as possible. Leaders on the other hand have gone through struggles, have come into their own, and are willing to take the risks and push the envelope in a way that is visionary, intuitive, and innovative. They also develop intense relationships with others that can be volatile, which in some ways allows them to be more empathetic.
In my view leaders have a lot of personal strength first because they often go through struggle to become a “twice born” as Zaleznik calls it and therefore have the internal fortitude to push the envelope as they become a leader not only in their own lives, but for others.
With these descriptions are you more of a manager or a leader? What traits most define you when dealing with others or in your work life? If you aspire to be a leader how can you integrate more of the leadership qualities into your life?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.