Leadership: Knowing vs. Owning

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I read lots of books on leadership. I spend time studying leaders I admire. And no doubt I glean something from each experience. Mind you, I consider myself a work in progress in this area, and one of my objectives here is to flesh out my convictions and set sound direction as I grow to become a leader. Two attributes stand obvious in my mind today for what constitutes a great leader.

The first is that a great leader has to be a great giver. It’s not always necessarily money– it’s time, it’s energy, but sometimes, well, much of the time it’s money. We hear much talk about the need for leaders, but how are we individually or corporately creating them? You can’t just hire bodies, you have to own a process to invest in building leadership.

Let’s reflect individually for a moment. What are you doing currently to commit to your personal growth as a leader? Are you willing to pay for it, to invest in yourself? Then alongside, as a company, what are you doing beyond lip service to put some skin in that game when you have a promising prospect?

My wife and I are investing in a young, college graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. He needs financial support to devote a couple of years to a non-profit, rather than jump immediately into building a resume in his industry. It’s a step of faith, and we believe when he’s 35 years old, he will have built a unique foundation for leadership along with his great technical resume. And when he’s 50, he will not hesitate to invest forward in someone else.

The second vital trait to me is that a great leader must apply discipline. It starts with having a morning routine– reading, exercising, and preparing, for instance. It’s about valuing time and thinking ahead with consistency. Are you starting your day with happenstance? Or are you starting each day with a plan? The lie that less planning and more action means getting more done does not make anyone a leader. It just makes them an action-monster.

Recently a strong, disciplined leader offered to help me to become certified to facilitate Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits for Effective Leaders.” When I learn to apply them well, I can pour that knowledge and wisdom into other minds. What a chain of investment.

Giving and discipline… may be obvious but not always easy. Don’t I know it, but do I own it?