These days there is so much talk about leadership, but really, what is leadership? It can be defined in many ways, but I believe in the definition that John Maxwell refers to: “Leadership begins and ends with influence.”

So let’s define influence. It can be defined as “having the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.”

So a strong leader must have the ability to effect change in a person or a group of persons. When you think of a strong leader, whom do you think of? A family member, a celebrity, maybe a politician, but it would be someone who has made an impact on your life, values, or habits.

In my opinion, leaders are not born but created. While internal personal values can help you become a leader, that in itself is not all that is necessary. 

When I think of a leader worth following, I think of a person having the following characteristics: 

  • Servant attitude
  • Caring heart
  • Passion to be a positive influence
  • Strong sense of emotional intelligence
  • Able to put one’s self last and others first

Let’s look at each one of these in more depth. 

A Servant’s Attitude: To have true influence, one must have the passion to want to serve others with the mind-set of putting them and their well-being first. A servant cares for and does what is necessary to influence others for the benefit of others.

Caring Heart: This is the part that, if any, could be inherited or you could be born with. Not that one’s heart can’t grow and change, but the core or foundation needs to be there. To lead or to influence someone, you must care about that person. It is not about what you can get out of a situation but how you can honestly work to influence someone and that it really matters to you. This must be a genuine characteristic, as someone trying to fake it or pretend can be spotted easily.

Positive Influence: I have learned over the years that positive and negative energy are real. If you wake up every day with the right attitude and look at life in a positive fashion, I believe life will be more positive than negative. I am not naïve enough to believe that negativity does not come into our lives, but what I am convinced of is that how we deal with it makes a very distinct difference. 

Emotional Intelligence: Have you ever been in a situation where you just knew how to handle it or how to react. This is emotional intelligence at work. This is learned behaviour that comes from prior experience or watching someone’s reaction to something and recognising the way to respond, whether you know that person or not. It is an ability that is overlooked greatly in leadership. Leaders need to be able to read a person and be capable of noticing and working through emotions. The actions and words that are not stated can actually mean more than words or actions that are stated.

Last, Not First: In Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last, he tells the story about the armed forces where, in the dining halls, the leaders eat last. This is so that if an attack comes, those that are on the front lines are well nourished and prepared for battle. The leaders, while important to strategy and tactics, are not important when it comes to battle. 

In my own life, I have always tried to live by the Golden Rule. It comes from Matthew 7:12 and I quote, “do to others whatever you would like them to do to you,” or as I have heard other versions, “treat people the way you would want your mother treated.” Think of the difference in the world if this rule was lived out day by day in every country.

It’s not just the beginning of this verse that matters; it’s actually the end that makes the verse matter. Verse 12 goes on to say, “this is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” The key word here is “essence.” It encompasses all law, and if this is how you live, then everything else falls into place. 

What’s my point? As a leader, we must care about others first, be a positive influence, pay attention to detail, and treat others as we want to be treated.

I will leave you with this phrase: lead with your heart and the rest will follow.

Doug Bundock, CRM, is a Certified Coach and Trainer with the John Maxwell Organization and the Chief Operating Officer at Benson Kearley IFG.

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