Leadership isn’t just for those with the title or position of leadership. Every person, in any given situation, is a leader of something. You may not have the prestige or salary, but there is no doubt that you carry some leadership responsibilities, however small they may be.
Very few leaders start at the top. They start somewhere way down the ladder and work their way up. The difference between them and the next person is that they exhibit strong leadership characteristics. Now, not everyone is a natural born leader, but we all lead in various ways. Whether you’re trying to get to the top, or simply being successful where you are, there are several aspects of your own personal development that must be achieved in order be effective as a leader at any level.
John Maxwell provides 10 steps to developing courageous leadership:
“Convictions that are stronger than my fears”
A leader is one who overcomes their fears. This may be fears of stepping out, fears of trying something new, or even a fear of standing up to what you know is right. Most everyone has convictions but many are too timid to stand up when those convictions are challenged. To succeed as a leader your convictions must overrule your fears.
“Vision that is clearer than my doubts”
For any leader, vision is essential. A leader must be able to see where they are now, and look ahead to where they strive to be. While any vision comes with doubt, the doubt cannot be paralyzing to achieving the vision.
“Spiritual sensitivity that is louder than popular opinion”
Many people try to check their spirituality at the door when it comes to work and leadership, when in actuality they are inseparable. Spirituality is the core of who you are. Unfortunately, many allow trends, popular opinion, or even a louder voice in the room hold sway over what they truly know and believe in their heart. Spiritual strength is essential to establishing a firm moral foundation that cannot be blown over or toppled by the voices around them.
“Self-esteem that is deeper than self-protection”
Protecting oneself from outside forces and influences is a natural reaction. But sometimes people allow that to come at the expense of their own self-esteem. They protect themselves by going along and not standing out. This is contrary to true leadership. Leaders must be able to stand out and, by doing so, put themselves in a vulnerable position. Having the self-esteem to stick to your core convictions may leave you vulnerable, but no true leader ever succeeded under a roof of self-protection.
“Appreciation for discipline that is greater than my desire for leisure”
Greatness (or even desired goodness) can rarely be achieved without a measure of self-discipline. We all want and need leisure time, but those who stand head and shoulders above others almost universally have something in common. They are willing to sacrifice some of their precious leisure time for those things that help them grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
“Dissatisfaction that is more forceful than the status quo”
While I’m a firm believer in learning to be content where we are, there must also be a measure of dissatisfaction with things always being the same. Contentment helps us learn to survive and be happy with what we have. Dissatisfaction helps propel us forward to better things that we know can be achieved. While we cannot live in a state of unhappy dissatisfaction, we can use that dissatisfaction to grow our measure of success.
“Poise that is more unshakable than panic”
Nobody likes a panicky leader. While any leader may become worried or distressed, how they handle those situations says a lot about them. Keeping cool under pressure produces a calmness that spreads within an organization, allowing everybody to think with a clear head and develop strategies that will bring you through any crisis. Keep in mind, however that poise without action is just as devastating as panic… it just takes longer to feel the results.
“Risk-taking that is stronger than safety-keeping”
Leadership itself is a risk. There is no safety in standing up or stepping out when everybody else is just sitting around. Sometimes the risk is mental or emotional. Other times the risk will be financial. But there are very few profitable investments that don’t require some measure of risk. True leaders understand that risk is a part of the job.
“Actions that are more robust than rationalization”
It’s possible to rationalize your way out of anything. The problem is rationalizations reduce us to inaction rather than action. Nothing ever gets accomplished when we can find all the reasons not to do it rather than looking at why it needs to be done. Focus on the goals and find ways to to get there, instead of reasons not to try.
“A desire to see potential reached more than see people pleased”
Every person has potential for greatness. The biggest obstacle to such greatness is often those who we surround ourselves with. While we cannot put aside the needs of our friends and family for our own selfish ambitions, we cannot please everybody all of the time. Nor can you allow others to hold you back from achieving the success you deserve.
Leading is rarely ever easy. Some have natural ability, for others it must be developed. But every leader faces the same trials and struggles. Learning to overcome the roadblocks and other obstacles that often try to set us back is essential if we are going to reach our fullest potential.
Courageous leadership means finding ways to succeed regardless of our circumstances. It means putting ourselves out there, facing our fears, doubts and potential ridicule all for the greater good. While many people may not like what is required to become a leader, very few regret what they have to go through to achieve it.