I recently wrote about the four traits you need to be a great leader, discussing how great leadership is built brick by brick, with each decision and every mistake you make, over many years. To create a strong foundation to build upon, you need to do a little soul-searching and choose the right words that describe you both in life and career, such as character, integrity, credibility and vision, to fill the foundation and anchor the cornerstones.
Now, with a strong foundation intact, it's time to build your house—with five different floors representing your life and career.
Building Your House
The 15 to 20 words you chose for your cornerstones and foundation play a critical role in developing your leadership skills in the following five areas, or rather levels of your house.
Career: If there were no titles in your company, would your colleagues view you as a leader? If vendors, partners and clients had to choose one to two people in your company as the leaders, whom would they choose and why?
Community: Are you a leader in your community? Do you commit your time, energy and resources to making the community a better place to live for the people around you?
You: Do you believe in yourself? Are you committed to being the type of leader that you would follow?
Family and Friends: How do they view you? In moments of crisis, do they turn to you for guidance and advice?
Religion: If religion is a central part of your life, are you being a leader in your house of worship? Do you practice what you preach?
Answer these questions honestly. What kind of role do you play in each of these areas? Are you a leader in some areas but not others? Where do you want to focus your efforts on strengthening your leadership position?
Gauging Your Decisions
One way you can strengthen your leadership position is by better understanding how you make your decisions. Most decisions that define us as leaders come when we hit forks in the road. These forks happen on all five floors of our respective houses. When you come to these forks, how do you decide which path to choose? Do you take the well-worn route even though you think it might be wrong?
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When making crucial decisions, most people rely on one of two barometers. The first barometer is your “gut” instinct. This type of decision implies that the decision was made almost by flipping a coin and that you got lucky; however, that's not the case at all. When a problem arises warranting a decision, a message is sent from a floor in your house to your foundation, which reads, “I’m at a fork in the road. Should I go left or right?” Your foundation processes the information (based on all those great words you chose previously) and replies. This process is always changing, and is constantly being upgraded to handle the changes taking place on the different floors of your house.
The second internal barometer we use in making tough decisions is our conscience. Many of us will remember the famous Disney character Jiminy Cricket, who always told us to “let your conscience be your guide.” In essence, he was referring to our foundations. We should trust that our foundations can support and correctly assess our situations and provide us with the best path going forward.
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There is one external barometer that can help you in making tough decisions: people who share similar foundations and core values with you. Align yourself with these like-minded people who are probably leaders in their own right. If you respect their leadership positions, then let them help you grow as a leader by allowing them to share their insights from similar experiences.
This article, in conjunction with the previous article, is meant to challenge you to become a better leader in all your positions by pondering tough questions. Are you ready to be a great leader?
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