5 Things Successful Leaders Know That Make Us Want to Follow Them

By Sheila Madden

The amazing Dr. Maya Angelou understood the profound difference between management (what is done) and leadership (how things are done). She expressed it with her unique heart-full clarity when she said: “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Here are 5 things that successful leaders know about leadership that make us want to follow them:

1. You must become deeply self-aware and then get over yourself and be “other” focused. Sounds strange, I know, but it is true. I talk a lot about the importance of self-awareness in leadership. It is a key component of emotional intelligence. But what isn’t talked about very often is the interconnected and essential next step: getting over yourself. Only then can you become the kind of leader who is fully focused on those around you who have placed their trust in you. When you are able to suspend your own ego, you can really see and hear what the people who work for you need to be at their best. You can lead with laser-like focus, listen whole-heartedly, coach insightfully and help people, and your organization, reach their fullest potential. You have to do your own work first, but don’t stop there. Ultimately, as a great leader, it is never, ever about you, it is always about others.

2. If you are really lucky, leadership will break your heart and expand your humanity and effectiveness. Something, someone, some situation will awaken in you the universal vulnerability of the human experience. It will be humbling. You will be leading a group and then something will happen to you or to someone you lead: a child may become ill, there may be a diagnosis of cancer, someone may die or there may be a catastrophic failure. From the humility gained from this experience your role as a leader will forever change. Your perspective will widen to include a broader definition of what is important. Your thinking will become more integrated and holistic. This will change your priorities and how you approach achievement, for yourself and for your team. Your heart will fill with compassion and at last you will truly lead, from the heart AND from the head. You will lead with a vigor and fearlessness that you have never before experienced. Effortlessly, you will begin to notice that you are seeing the best in people, the potential perfection in each of them. And because you can see it clearly, you can help others see it in themselves. You will engage with people on a different level and great things will happen.

3. One of the greatest gifts you can give to those you lead is to be happy, no matter what is going on. Happiness is not a temporal emotion. It is a state of mind and it is one you have to choose. There are good days and bad ones as a leader: successes and failures, calmness and stress. The onslaught of challenges never stops. In fact, they come at you with a velocity that is ferocious. The volume of things over which you have no control will increase daily. The only thing that you control, and that you control forever, is you and how you choose to respond to life’s  events. You must decide ahead of time to be happy no matter what situation arises. Circumstances don’t determine your happiness, you do. Stay mentally focused and do not let yourself become distracted by the outside situations that you face. When your team sees you happy, determined to not let anything ruin your day, your optimism or your impact, they will learn to do the same. This will create resilience, confidence and, ultimately, more success. It will change you, your team and your workplace, forever.

4. The most important measure of success ultimately, is yours. While judging yourself as successful by way of specific achievements against expectations is a reality of leadership, the ultimate measure that will bring you fulfillment is if you have met your own standards and goals. The reality is, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you will fail. That does not mean that you are a failure. But through failure or facing any difficult times, you will learn that you and you alone, are the ultimate judge of if you did the right things, in the right way. Look inside yourself, not outside.

5. The ultimate reward of being a great leader is when you realize that you don’t need to be rewarded. In fact, you actually come to realize that there is a sanctity that is inherent in being a great leader. The fact that people are willing to follow you is a tremendous honor and it carries great responsibility for being the best you can be as a human being. Only when you are relentless in your quest to be the best you can be, can you fulfill your ultimate responsibility, which is to help others do the same. When this happens, your state of mind shifts from expecting to receive a “thank you” to giving them, with deep gratitude. Miraculously and happily, you realize that this is the reward in and of itself.

Copyright 2017, 2014. Sheila Madden, CEO Madden Coaching & Consulting. All Rights Reserved.


Need help learning to be a successful leader?  Reach out to one of our executive coaches in the Owen Coaching Network.  Click here to learn more about Sheila.

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