More than a few articles have focused on ‘successful leaders’ all sharing common traits such as being a communicator, intuition, confidence, creativity and others.
While there is clearly some truth, even the most celebrated leaders do not meet every characteristic. In my experience, there are three prerequisites of a leader, without exception. All of which are essential to effective leadership.
These prerequisites are: (1) Identity, (2) Direction, and (3) Motion.
Identity is who you are, and what you value. When you know who you are, and what you value so much that you are not willing to compromise it, you are able to make consistently better value decisions, no matter what you are leading. Without an identity, which provides meaning to your choices, it is difficult to know whether or not you are making good decisions.
Direction is the course you take to get where you want to go. Knowing where you want to go enables you to make better choices about the best paths to get there, and reduces distractions and detours along the way. Without direction, which provides focus, you are just wandering. You may find the right road or destination, yet if you do not know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?
Finally, while it is necessary to know who you are, where you are going, and which paths to follow and detours to avoid, these are not enough to be an effective leader. You need one more.
Motion is actual movement, resulting in action and then accomplishment. All too often, ideas, plans, and even promises are mistaken for action, even when nothing of value is ever actually produced. Consider the number of executive decisions and political speeches that result in little or no movement. Without motion, you do not get anywhere. If you do not move, nothing happens.
Again, effective leaders…
– explore who they are, and what they value, objectively and honestly.
– know where they are going, commit, correct course, and avoid distractions.
– move with meaning and direction, and get you to your destination.
After all, who would knowingly and willingly choose to follow a leader who didn’t know what they valued, who didn’t know where they were going or care how they got there, or who talked a big game, yet didn’t actually do anything, go anywhere, or create anything of real value?
Identity, direction, and motion are the starting point of effective leadership.
If you or your organization are not there yet, there is no need to stop everything. You may just need to delay key decisions long enough to first gain a little clarity.
The good news is, once you begin openly and honestly exploring your identity… where you want to go, the best direction to move, and the most effective motion will soon become self-evident.
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