This year at Connections, we’ll hear from leadership icons like Condoleezza Rice, Walter Isaacson, and Jim Collins, as the world’s most energized marketers gather in one place to share ideas and inspire each other.
I believe that every person—regardless of title, role, or background—has the power to lead. As we get closer to the opening keynotes and sessions of Connections, I want to take a moment to get you thinking about your own personal leadership vision, and how you’ll develop that vision and drive fundamental change in your organization.
Who is a true leader?
I think a true leader is someone who’s an inspiration to everyone they’re around. A leader is distinctly different from a manager, because a leader does more than manage tasks and review reports. A manager attempts to move up a ladder of success, but a leader makes sure that the ladder is on the right wall.
A leader is a person who chooses to be a positive influence in the lives of those around them. This is a clear choice, and doesn’t happen by accident, as anyone can attest who’s tried to maintain positivity during a demanding time when negativity came more naturally. A leader has a clear conviction of what needs to be done, as well as the courage to get there.
What does a leader do?
A leader goes after a big problem when everyone else is running away from it. One of the toughest things about being a leader is going the direction that others aren’t. Maybe that’s hiring 100 people when most companies are letting 100 people go, or being the only person to ask questions when everyone else is just rushing to get something approved. A leader is proactive.
How do you find the power to be this kind of leader yourself?
One of my guiding principles in both life and leadership is beginning with the end in mind. Whether you’re starting a project, a career, or simply a new workday, always start with the end goal for whatever you’re tackling.
As you develop your leadership skills, don’t wait for someone else to ask you to solve a problem, or inform you that you’re now allowed to try solving it. Pursue the solutions that your team and organization needs, and never wait for the next opportunity to fall into your lap.
Voracious reading is one of the ways I try to stay sharp as a leader. I keep seven or eight books on my nightstand at one time, and I use the guidance of my favorite authors to refine my ideas and challenge my worldview. (I suggest starting with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Jim Collins’ Good to Great, and any of Peter Drucker’s works if you’re looking for some solid inspiration.)
Consider your own balance of humility and confidence. If you lean too much in either direction, you impede your effectiveness, so consistently work to improve that balance.
For the struggle of insecurity, I’ve found that knowledge and plenty of practice are strong antidotes. Many people can relate to a discomfort I’ve had in the past with public speaking. Ten years ago, I wasn’t completely comfortable with it, but I studied up on ways to improve and just started speaking more. It became easier to grow my proficiency and comfort level just by doing it. Knowledge solves insecurity, and knowledge helps you become more well-rounded.
Your power to lead will only increased as your knowledge and skills increase, so keep reading and studying to generate a vision that’s bigger than you and your goals alone. We’ll talk much more about leadership and vision at Connections, but before that, I encourage you to think about what you want to achieve as a leader and how you might get there.
Start with the end state—and I think what you’ll learn and discover at Connections will help you get there.