5 Leadership Lessons: The Heart of Leadership
“Leaders are different,” begins Mark Miller’s The Heart of Leadership. “They see the world differently and they cultivate different character traits.” It’s a business fable that explains that “you can have impeccable character—be honest, loyal, dependable, and so on—and still not demonstrate leadership character.” Leadership character sits on top of these traits and are foundational. Leaders who don’t possess these traits and others like them, are disqualified before they start.
Skills are important, but “if you don’t demonstrate leadership character, your skills and your results will be discounted, if not dismissed. The Heart of Leadership is a well told story and is built around five lessons:
Think Others First. To think others first is not primarily about what you do—it is about how you think. It’s all about what’s in your heart. How can I Serve this person? What does a win look like for him or her?
Expect the Best. Many people in the world see events as they are; leaders are different in that they see things that could be. And the future they see is always a better version of the present. We believe we can make a difference; we think we can make the world, or at least our part of it, better. Leaders are generally more optimistic than non-leaders.
Respond With Courage. Practice taking action. As you go through your day, ask yourself what action would be appropriate here? Your missed opportunities are often no big deal in isolation. They are, however, cumulative.
Hunger for Wisdom. A hunger for wisdom fueled by a commitment to lifelong learning will equip you for whatever lies ahead. Be open to input, new ideas, contrarian opinions, and views. Establish a network of counselors to call on for their advice and wisdom.
Accept Responsibility. Assume responsibility for your actions and the action of those you lead. It is about being accountable for actions and outcomes—yours and others. Leaders accept responsibility, in part, because they are sold out to the vision. It matters more than they do.
The key issue though is discussed at the end of the story. If these qualities don’t become part of who you are, your leadership will never really change. Our leadership reflects who we are inside. You can fake it for a while, but eventually it will come out. “If you do all those activities and your heart doesn’t change, you won’t be the kind of leader you want to be. Leadership is not about what you do nearly as much as it’s about who you are becoming—the heart of leadership is a matter of the heart.”
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