The purpose of leadership is to realise potential, activate others and shape a preferred future.
Leaders create a better future for people. Period.
We share vision, solve problems, add value, sell solutions, bring alignment and when we add it all up, we are in the business of making a better future for people.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. That doesn’t mean there isn’t heartache, challenge and some dark days for the souls. In fact, it promises there will be. Critical to that is the development of our character, our conviction and our contribution.
Einstein is quoted as saying “Only a life lived for others is worthwhile.” I agree entirely.
I equally believe the reason I do things for myself is nested in the context of being better prepared and more able to serve and influence others.
Stop for a minute and write down your answers to these questions right now:
- What intentional plan do you have in place to shape your character and learn new skills?
- Who are you including in what you know, where you are going and how they can benefit?
- Do you have clarity, conviction and energy about the future you are leaning into?
- What have you done specifically about Questions 1-3 in the last 7 days?
Like everything in life, leadership has a fluidity to it. We need to continually assess our environment, our resources, our conviction and energy, then make the wisest possible decision we can at that moment. In that agile context, leadership has a clear purpose that looks like this.
First, fit your oxygen mask then fit the mask to those around you. Counter intuitive advice really. If it’s my wife, child or teammate, I am more likely to choose them before me. Unless I get overwhelmed and taken out then I am no help to anyone….
Realising potential is ABOUT YOU but it is FOR OTHERS too. What you have is not for you but it is for you to be responsible for taking it and making it great. You are good at some things, not everything. BE as good at those things that you can. In fact, be world class.
Leadership is better together. The idea that we can go fast alone and farther together is true, and again, counter intuitive. Are your biggest toys and biggest frustrations in leadership with people? I know right! And often it’s the same people.
Activate them anyway. Humanity is what keeps leadership authentic, real, alive and sharp. Invite others, see what makes them come alive. Ask what they would do for free. Dig deep for the parts of their life and world that fires them up almost unconsciously. Have the bold and brave conversations that make us better together.
Thomas Merton said “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
Activating others is about inviting people into a place of being fully alive.
Shape a preferred future.
Leaders live in the future. My leadership voice order is:
The first three are ALL future orientated voices so it’s natural for me to lead into and speak into the future. Where we are headed, why and how we can get there is my love language.
To discover your leadership Voice click HERE.
We are all going somewhere here, either on purpose or by accident. Leaders shape a future that we can get excited about and also participate fully in. Leaders also take the time to celebrate along the way and learn lessons from the mistakes or experiences that we cause to make one another better. We are going to live in the future we are creating, do you want to?
What does it take to be this kind of a leader?
When you realise potential and activate others you must have dedicated consistency. The kind that helps people see, feel and experience who you are in any and all kinds of circumstances. The kind of consistency that is dependable but not beige, trustworthy but not boring, settled but passionate about innovation.
When you realise potential and shape a preferred future you must employ authentic perseverance. The kind that realises life and leadership isn’t perfect but it can be better. The kind that celebrates victor, acknowledges failure and picks themselves up and keeps running. When my daughter was in her first year of school she started the cross country (one lap around the oval) and in the first twenty five metres, she tripped and fell. My wife yelled out encouragement ‘Go Zarriah, jump up and run.” So she did. She got up, dusted herself off, and ran her five-year old heart out. It’s a story she holds deep in her heart today as an example of authentic perseverance.
When you activate others and shape a preferred future you need to have adaptable conviction. The kind of conviction that has at its core the things that matter and keeps the values and alignment front and centre as well as leaving room for innovation, adaptation, inclusion. This daily dance is all part of how leaders are agile and responsive to the world they are in and able at the same time to hold fast to convictions and a vision of the future. It has a rhythm to it as well as a system to follow.
Over the next 30 days, I’d like you to do these five application steps and notice the level of energy and commitment you have and also what you have from others.
- Plan and start (or restart) a leadership development plan.
- Have a breakfast meeting with those that share a similar preferred future to you.
- Be bold, specifically and articulate about the future you want to create.
- With conviction, invite others to participate, let them decide if they do or don’t.
- Navigate, with authenticity and humility, the ups and downs of leadership.
And remembering this, we get to choose who we become, what we stand for and how we can maximise our potential and the lives of others. As Kofi Annan says, we must choose well.
“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.