Being a leader suggests that you are going somewhere. It suggests movement and it suggests that others are going with you. To make that a reality here are five things every leader should know and why.
Vision - What Drives a Leader
As a leader you need to know where you are going. Sounds easy, simple and sort of d’uh, but really – where are you going? I’m not talking about your goals for the next 10 years, but if you know where you are going then these ‘goals’ become markers – sign posts on the way. Goals are too often just about stuff or more, neither of which is very satisfactory and neither of which will actually get you anywhere, not anywhere meaningful. What does the trajectory of your life look like? You came, you saw, you conquered? What did you see? What did you conquer? But more importantly why did you conquer? What is the difference you want to make?
If you have a vision and that vision is about the difference you want to make and the impact you want to make on the world, then you do know where you are going. Your vision will tell you and everyone else what you want to happen when the mission is done right! Strategy is how you will get there.
Impact - The Reason for Leadership
As a leader you also need to know, and be able to articulate, the impact you want to make. You want and need to be able to clearly describe the difference, “happy customers who……?” or maybe, “Communities that…..?” or perhaps, “Our business will make sure the Earth is……?” The clarity of the impact will provide precise measurement of your success. Knowing the impact tells you how close you are, when and how to change direction, if needed, and holds you accountable for bringing your vision to Life. Every action and decision you make impacts you, your family and friends, your customers, the Earth – you can’t get away from that, but you only control that impact when you know what that impact should be – what you want it to be.
KPMGs recent report Unlocking the Value of Social Investment is a case in point. It is impact that makes the difference, but too rarely do we pay attention to it as this article from caelusgreenroom.com illustrates.
Values Mean Success
Can you articulate your top three to five values? These are values that indicate to you that your house is in order, your life meaningful and your soul is proud. These are the values that infuse everything you do. Few people can do this. Take a minute, right now, to write them down. After you have them written, ask your self, when have you acted on these? Values held without action are only wishes. Values are seductive and subtle. We cling to values like honesty (really?), wanting to succeed, or ‘being a good person’, but what do you really stand for? Look back over your life and notice those situations where you were either very proud or ashamed. If you can clearly and succinctly say why, then you may have found your core values.
Values form the container for action and behavior. Values tell you how to do something, as well as what to do. Values tell you about the edges of your life – the places with the most juice. Values provide the hidden, secret look into what makes you tick. In my values clarification work I have seen time and time again that we hold values dear that are really unimportant and claim values we are unwilling to act on. Build your confidence and self-respect by walking your talk – live the values you stand for!
Learning - The Duty of a Leader
This is the tool that makes sure all the others are successful. When a you can see patterns, interconnections, and implications, then you can strategize. Then you can not only plan, but also get ahead of yourself (in a good way) by laying the foundation that will be strong enough to hold the impact and vision that you are creating. This is the tool that will make so many invisible links visible. Reasons for situations, consequences and root cause suddenly become obvious. We laugh when we say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but this ishow we live! We keep doing the same things over and over largely because we don’t know how to do things differently. Systems thinking will facilitate thinking differently, so you will get new answers to old problems.
Systems Thinking - A Leaders Hidden Advantage
What needs to be learned for you, as a leader, to live all of the above? If you say, “nothing.” Then you are playing way too small! Where do your strengths and weaknesses come into play? Where are you skillful – or not? Where do you have confidence and where are you feeling scary and a bit weak in the knees? These places tell you what you need to learn. What is your plan for acquiring that knowledge? Remember that nothing is learned until the knowledge is acted upon, so your learning plan must also have concrete actions with measurable results.
Learning requires commitment and resources. What resources will you need to bring into your life to learn enough to make your legacy real? Who will you work with? Who will help hold you accountable?
Take stock, look at your life, answer these questions and see where you are. If you already had the answers you would already be doing what you want to do. If you don’t, then what do you need to learn? Who will work with you to get you into position to make the impact that will make your life worthwhile?
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Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author CIQ coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.