Over many years of studying and observing leaders in a variety of situations, and working with some great leaders and some aspiring leaders, it has become more clear to me that there is no one single pathway to leadership. There is not a magic formula for how to be a great leader, that once mastered and followed precisely will develop a person into greatness. Instead, the key is to discover your own personal, individual leadership strengths – not try to copy someone else’s style – but truly become self-aware. Then, once you know who you are as a leader, it takes a tremendous amount of work and even courage to trust yourself to lead based on who you are rather than who others expect you to be.
Once this is mastered the journey to leadership greatness begins. That’s right. Self-awareness is only the beginning of the leadership journey. Continuing to be true to yourself, focus on growing and developing your strongest leadership attributes, and choosing to serve those who follow you regardless of what might, (or might not), be in it for you are the next steps along the pathway. And I firmly believe it is a continuous pathway – always a journey. You will never “get there” because leaders never stop striving to grow, develop, learn, and serve those who may be following.
The slide deck to the right side of this post includes four of the pathways. There is infinite variation on these because each journey is unique to the individual. The four highlighted paths are:
- Leadership through building relationships with others
- Leadership through creating systems and processes to guide others
- Leadership through helping others achieve results
- Leadership through motivating and inspiring others
The one thread linking them all is the focus on others. A leader is defined by those who follow.