Consider Yourself a Leader? Well You Are One!

— Written By Christine Smith and last updated by Kim Davis

Do you consider yourself a leader? What makes a good leader? Is it a title, position, or something else? Today I want to address an issue that is dear to my heart:  LEADERSHIP.

When I think about it we are all leaders. Whether you are a parent, coach, mentor, educator, elected official or a community activist each of you lead and influence others.

Leadership is critical to business and to life. Although there have been a lot of books written on leadership, it is still undervalued. Most companies and organizations invest in management training but not so much in leadership training. The most successful organizations – whether they are a business, government, faith-based, community or military – are successful because of great leaders. Of all the skills needed in groups, leadership is the most important.

I’ve been privileged to work with many great leaders throughout my career and tried hard to learn what it is that makes them so effective. It comes down to these three basic fundamentals: vision, passion, and commitment.

VISION. When we say that a leader has vision, we refer to the ability to see the present as it is and formulate a future that grows out of and improves upon the present. Leaders keep their hands on the process but their eyes on the end results. As a leader it is important to share your vision. It causes people to create a commonality of interests that enables people to see meaning and consistency. It also helps people to focus on the future. James Kouzes and Barry Posner says, “There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

PASSION. Passion is such a key part of being a great leader that if you don’t have it, you simply can’t be a great leader. Leadership is all about passion. It’s fueled by the desire to truly be useful and to be willing to do the work to get there. Think of all the great leaders throughout the ages and try to name one that did not have passion.

Passion is that internal drive that inspires all who come into your presence. Dr. Myles Munroe states, “When a leader is passionate about his purpose and vision, he does not need others to motivate him to work.”  He is a self-starter and is his own motivation. People with passion are energetic and full of excitement. So much so, that it transforms, motivates and energizes those in their path. Passion causes people to keep going regardless of obstacles they may encounter. When they are working on their vision, the energy level is never depleted but refueled.

COMMITMENT. We are in desperate need of leaders who inspire commitment. It is the act of binding and engaging oneself to a particular course of action. Commitment separates doers from dreamers. It is important because on the journey of life, and pursuing our dreams and goals, there are many obstacles. Commitment keeps us going in the face of adversity and challenges.

Every leader faces many new experiences and challenges. Fatigue, discouragement, criticism, isolation, self-denial, and pressures of all sorts of attack him or her. But when leaders are committed it enables one to pour out passion, energy and enthusiasm in his or her endeavors. If you are committed, you will experience success regardless of the outcome. Leaders who work to inspire, adapt, and see multiple perspectives gains greater commitment to ignite action.

As you can see, a position and a title do not make you a leader. Nor is leadership a one-day thing. It is a constant commitment to excellence, a habit, and a daily practice. It requires hard work, dedication, continuous self improvement, and becoming a student of lifelong learning to be an EFFECTIVE leader. Having vision, passion, and commitment will help you become the kind of leader people enjoy working for.

Thought to ponder:

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch

Christine Smith is an Extension Agent in the department of Family & Consumer Sciences with N.C. Cooperative Extension, NCSU. Information on other services available can be found online at http://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/