Good Leaders Just Cannot Wait

Leaders do not just wait for success to happen to them

Successful leadership is not passive, the business leader needs to be active in advancing their own skills and knowledge, proactive in developing the people around them and apply foresight to the activities of the businesses. In essence successful leaders just cannot wait - they make things happen.

Last month I attended a conference of business leaders in London. I was interested to listen and learn about their concerns and expectations. At the event I was booked to deliver a seminar on maximising motivation and enjoyed giving people with highly responsible roles the opportunity to examine and assess their capabilities. Leaders so often focus on others, getting their people, partners, departments or customers to achieve, but good leaders will also always make time for conscious self-improvement.

The event followed on from running training a company to support their management team to explore and define successful leadership in their business. Both the conference and client work reminded me of how impatient a good leader needs to be.

When reading a biography by Carly Fiorina (Tough Choices: A Memoir) I noticed the definition of leadership (circled in the picture below) that she used:

“Leadership is not a position it’s a mindset”

When talking about leadership we (at Know and Do) start with who the leader is, for instance:

  • Are they worth listening?

  • What do they think, talk or act like?

  • What are their values, ambitions or beliefs?

To be a leader, as Derek Sivers has shared, one has to be worth following in some way. Anyone can be given a title and become a “manager” but rarely are leaders given a title to become effective leaders. They may have authority or responsibility but that is not always the same as leading.

One recent leader on a training course explained, that to her "a manager TELLS others what to do, whereas a leader SHOWS people what to do". This means leaders have to allow others to choose to listen, learn or follow them; they cannot make others see them as a leader.

This is a subtle distinction and one that means leaders need to be impatient. So many managers I talk to about being a leader, want to be given information to enable them to be a leader. They wait to be shown opportunities or be told what the right thing to do is. A person may be able to observe the world around them and be open to learning; however, they are not a leader if they wait for others to give them the answers. Leaders have to seek out information, to keep on trying to find something they need, to be prepared to take a risk, experience something new or spot an opportunity for themselves.

Impatience in this context - to get somewhere fast, achieve something quickly, or find an answer promplty - is a helpful driver if it is channelled through the lens of self-improvement or behind a clear cause. If leadership motivates others and inspires them to act is a remamrkably successful catalyst. Ordering people may get a short term result but it would never win someone’s trust or confidence to follow another.

When I’m asked about becoming a successful leader I think Carly Fiorina’s definition is helpful. You can choose to be a leader regardless of your context or circumstance. Whether other people follow you is a separate step but a successful leader has an impatient attitude, they want to get something done and they will step up to the plate to make 'it' happen.