Leadership. It's a thing. We don't often think about what kind of leaders we are, but it's one of the most important facets of our lives. Leadership extends far beyond business. It's a personal set of values that we carry with us every day, present in every interaction we make and live by.
The Right Path Forward
Life can be funny. Sometimes it presents a clear path forward. At other times it's more like a maze, and we're not sure which to turn. The junctions in our lives could be considered the junctions of right and wrong, or simply making the best choice based on the knowledge we have.
Some people will follow the path as well as they can, always doing their best to take the right turn. Others may think they have found a shortcut and take the wrong path, thinking the ends justify the means.
The scary reality is sometimes the people who take shortcuts do get ahead faster. While you're carefully navigating your path and trying to do the best you can, the others are ahead of you. Think of The Tortoise and the Hare.
To make matters even worse, the right path is often fraught with danger. While the "wrong" path may look smooth and easy, the right path is full of rocks, cliffs, and rivers. The wrong path looks really appealing, but you know it's the wrong choice.
A good leader will take on the rocks, cliffs, and rivers. By doing so you know you'll learn to watch where you step, climb insurmountable challenges, and learn to swim. At the end of the path, the leader will emerge knowing the value of persistence, stronger, more knowledgeable. The leader has learned valuable life lessons and built character. That guy that took the easy way? Not so much.
What happens the next time a challenge is presented and there is no easy way out? The leader rolls up their sleeves and says "I've got this." The person that took the easy way? To put it simply, they're screwed.
What Makes a Great Leader?
The five basic characteristics are:
"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible." Dwight D. Eisenhower
At the very core of leadership is integrity. This is the foundation that every other aspect built upon. Without the core of integrity, nothing else falls into place or matters. Integrity does not mean always doing everything right. It means to do the very best you know how every single day.
None of us exists in a vacuum. We are a community and ecosystem. These ecosystems are symbiotic in nature. We can feed the ecosystem with integrity, respect, and kindness to help it thrive, or we can cut off the food supply and watch it wither and starve. Every interaction we share is representative of the whole. As individuals, it is our responsibility to respect our communities and ecosystems and help them thrive.
There is nothing you've done in your life that you have done solely on your own. There have been innovators, inventors, and mentors that have helped you along the way. Never quit being thankful. Say thank you for the help. Count your blessings every day. Do this even when you're feeling most down. Remember those that have helped and love you. They are golden.
Gratitude and humility are intertwined. To be thankful means to remember who has helped you and where you came from. We can't forget the community that has helped us thrive. In losing humility this inevitably happens and leads to what I like to call "Too Big for Your Britches Syndrome." Don't get too big for your britches!
Excessive ego + leadership simply do not go together. No amount of money or fame makes you or me better than anyone else. You are simply you, hopefully being the best version of you every day.
Leaders don't quit. When they fall down they get back up, dust themselves off, and keep going. A good leader will know that failure is sometimes inevitable but they don't fear it. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and do better. A leader's failures can amount to their biggest successes. A leader knows this and keeps going.
Oh no! Did you make a mistake? If so, OWN IT. Don't make excuses, lie about it or try to shrug it off. Own it, do your best to make it right, and move on.
Owning my own company, I do a lot of things. Doing a lot of things amounts to making a lot of mistakes. I make them all the time. Just yesterday a customer wrote to us letting us know that the spelling on one of our labels isn't right. Instead of cantaloupe it says cantapoupe. So now we have a label in circulation that in my mind is pronounced canta-poopay. Awesome!
The mistakes may be large or small, but it's all the same. Own it. A good leader owns their mistakes and tries their best to make them right.
Live Like a Leader
Living like a leader means living a life of honor, integrity, and respect. It means doing the right thing, even when the right thing may be more difficult. It means falling and getting right back up, sometimes over and over again. Live a life of honor and eventually everything will fall into place.
The most successful people in our industry and in the world live like a leader. Living like a leader = sustainable success. Those that don't eventually fizzle out. They don't know how to navigate their path when the going gets rough. A leader will always look at a challenge and say "I've got this."
You've got this!
- Carrie Thornsbury - MSL - Master of Science in Leadership