What is a Leader?

Someone said the first week of October was the most “2020” week that had happened so far in 2020.

It’s hard not to agree.

A lot of conversations I’ve had in the last few days have focused on the topic of leadership. It’s hard not to talk about leadership when it’s all over the news as the underlying theme in some of the biggest areas of discussion, such as the upcoming elections, organizations continuing to navigate the impact of COVID-19 and families working through challenges with schooling at home. Leaders are needed in each of these situations, and they need to show up in a big way.

But we’re not seeing it. So it begs the question: how do you define leader? What makes a person an effective leader vs. just carrying the title?

Here’s what I think:

A leader is someone who is in charge – earned or not, they have the title (and we know a title doesn’t make a leader… read on).

A leader is someone who can make decisions.

A leader is someone who has (often) worked hard to obtain the knowledge they have that got them to the place where they are today.

But an effective leader is different. An effective leader is someone who:

  • is aware of their strengths and how to manage them up or down as the situation requires
  • can make confident decisions in a short amount of time with the information they have
  • knows the importance of being adaptable, flexible, resilient and agile, because the world is constantly changing
  • is able to change direction without pointing fingers or complaining because they are confident in themselves
  • is aware of their liabilities and blind spots and seeks out guidance and insight from others who are strong in those areas and can provide the information needed to help reach the greatest and most effective decision
  • isn’t afraid to admit they don’t know
  • is someone who inspires confidence in others and challenges and encourages others to work towards their potential to be the best versions of themselves
  • inspires trust and loyalty

An effective leader can be a parent, a family member, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a neighbor. Regardless of their role, they have and live the attributes of an effective leader.

Take Action
So, how do you define a leader? Think about those who you would consider leaders and assess their attributes. Summarize what you feel makes a productive and unproductive leader. Then, check in on yourself. How you are a productive and effective leader in the areas of your work and life? How are you unproductive? What do you to work on to be more successful?

Titles are great but they don’t define the person from the inside, and that is where leadership resides. You know a leader not by what they say about themselves as much as what others say about them. Those who guide, engage, support and encourage others are true leaders. Be one. Set the example. Set the standard. Inspire others.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Coronavirus: 3 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Organization for the Unexpected on TLNT (written by Jay Forte)

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Go Center Yourself

By Jay Forte

Your employees always seem to find some way to aggravate you.

Your kids or spouse know just how to get under your skin.

The traffic on the highway, or the line of people ahead of you at the grocery store, can make you lose your cool.

The person who is too loud on their cell phone sitting near you in the airport frustrates you because you can’t concentrate on reading your novel or reviewing your notes for your meeting.

When you find yourself in any situation where your anger is rising, take a moment. Go center yourself. You will take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions to help you more calmly, sanely and wisely respond to whatever aggravation, frustration or irritation the world is sending you.

You are responsible for your responses and reactions. The situations you find yourself in are just information. Sure, some of them can be tedious, tough or terrible. They can be aggravating, frustrating and even irritating. Some of life is. But how you are in each of these moments is up to you. You can lose your cool or you can learn to get yourself to a place of calm that will help you wisely assess the situation, consider your alternatives, and choose one that can give you the best result. You can’t do this from a reactionary brain.

Go center yourself means you take a moment to get control of yourself, maintain context, get composed and then see the situation for what it is. This creates the ability to see more, consider more and ultimately choose a response that will give you a better result.

Here are three ways to go center yourself.

  1. Breathe. The breath is powerful. It creates an immediate change in you for two reasons. First, it activates a part of the brain that releases stress-reducing hormones, resulting in a relaxation response in the body. This built-in calming response is available to you any time you can remember to breathe. And second, the act of taking a breath interrupts you, even for just a moment, to disconnect you from the stress environment, breaking the default habit reaction. Once disconnected, more options to respond are possible.
  2. Move. Movement activates the brain and can shift it out of reacting. Simply by shifting, standing, sitting or moving a few steps allows you to create a disconnection from the event that can change your view of the situation and give yourself greater response options.
  3. Be inspired. Have a page of inspiring quotes, lyrics or lines from poetry to go to when you find yourself getting stressed. A line from a Maya Angelou poem, or some of the comedy found in Dr Seuss or Ogden Nash’s poems, can help you see things differently and allow yourself to get back in control. Again, it is a distraction that moves you away from reacting.

Centering is a way to be sane, calm and ready for what life sends you. Use it as you approach a big project, a big decision, a challenging situation or a tough discussion. It will help you show up to each in the best way possible by helping you see things more clearly and to manage the reactions.

Take Action

How will you center yourself in a tough situation or in anticipation of a tough situation this week? Notice the difference in the outcome and in how you felt in the process. Recognize the difference in you when you choose how to be. Calm, focused and tuned in is better than distracted, reactionary and stressed. Go center yourself.

Consider reading Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

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