Great leaders believe that the results they achieve are a consequence of the actions they take and that their actions are a consequence of their own thoughts. It is the belief that ‘control over my success as a leader lies within me’, and ‘I choose how to react’ to the realities and problems of work and life, which makes them successful. Great leaders accept personal responsibility – they learn from their successes as well as their failures.
Unsuccessful leaders however, have a different thought process. They believe that the results they achieve are mainly a consequence of circumstances. They often find themselves in situations that are ‘beyond their control’, or their situation is simply ‘bad luck’. They invariably blame circumstance or other people for their failures.
This thinking is anathema to a great leaders who will display ‘positive’ behaviours such as:
- Setting themselves high standards of performance and behaviour.
- Accepting personal responsibility for their performance and not blaming others for their failure.
- Being proactive and not waiting for ‘things to come their way’.
- Seek feedback to improve their performance
- Continuously seek and apply new and better ways of doing things.
If we want to be a great leader, we need to be aware of these behaviours and ensure that they become our habits. However, to develop these habits, we must first ensure that our thoughts are aligned in the right way since our thoughts will determine how we act.
These thoughts start with setting out what we want to achieve as a leader. For example we may have a desire to:
- Have the fastest growing company in the market.
- Be first to market with a specific product.
- Reduce patient waiting times by half.
- Provide a fantastic customer experience.
- Reduce product defects by 30%.
Whatever the goal is, truly great leaders have a high level of motivation to achieve ‘real things’. They are not content with maintaining the status quo. They certainly don’t need the approval of others and they are not driven to dominate and control others either.
To become a great leader therefore, we need to typically act in the following way. We must:
- Complete with ourselves and set our self high standards of performance.
- Accept personal responsibility for our own success (and failure), do not blame others.
- Continually try to do things in a better way involving other people.
- Set our self and others high challenging goals.
- Take action in a proactive manner.
- Care for other people and help them to become more successful.
- Provide direction and guidelines for excellent performance.
- Utilise time well and eliminate all wasteful activity.
- Recognise the efforts and success of others.
We have all have certain gifts that will help us to become great leaders, but ultimately great leaders are made and not just born. To paraphrase Aristotle – ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Great leadership is not an act, but a habit’.