A Message on Leadership
“A true leader can never insist on being followed. A true leader sets an example that’s so compelling others can’t help but follow.”
— Paul Gravette
Billions of words have been written about leadership over the years – through many centuries, in fact. There’s leadership advice for sports, the military, politics, and for my specialty, business and entrepreneurship. There’s leadership theory and leadership style.
After reading so many takes on leadership I began to wonder why the writers have made the topic so complicated. Did I really need to learn about Transactional, Visionary, Democratic, Strategic, Transformational, and all the other types of leadership into which the topic has been broken down? Would any of them work for me? Why isn’t leadership quantifiable into a simple method that anyone can learn and adapt?
The answer, of course, is that leadership is NOT something simple – but neither is it as complicated as everyone says it is. You see, leadership means different things to different people. What we should be doing is getting everyone to agree on exactly what leadership is and work from there.
So what is leadership?
Good question! As I said, it means many things depending on who’s doing the defining. But since I’m a successful entrepreneur who has applied leadership to real-world business situations to reach the top tier in all my endeavors, I think my definition is valid as well as being uncomplicated. It’s certainly worked for me, and I’ve seen it work for many others.
So here goes: Leadership is using your influence to inspire others to put forth their maximum effort to help you achieve a well-defined goal.
Let me break that down a bit so you’ll understand what I mean. First and most important is having a well-defined goal. I get a lot of people asking for advice on becoming an entrepreneur. They have ideas. Boy, do they have ideas! Unfortunately their ideas are all too often vague.
“What the world needs is a dating app for agoraphobics!”
“Hey, Paul! We can get rich if we find a way to recycle toilet paper!”
“It came to me last night in a dream! The future of pets in America is turtles!”
You aren’t going to inspire people to follow you unless your ideas are well defined and your goals are clear and achievable. People can’t focus on the big picture if it stretches out over three counties. It’s up to the leader to set goals that everyone can understand and know they can reach.
Next, you have to inspire your followers to their maximum effort in advancing your project or product. That means they have to believe in what you’re doing. And without the well-defined goal mentioned above, their efforts will become disorganized and unfocused.
Finally, there’s the part about using your influence. This goes back to the quote I have at the top of this piece: “A true leader can never insist on being followed. A true leader sets an example that’s so compelling others can’t help but follow.” You’ve heard the expression “leading by example?” The reason it’s almost a cliché is that it has so much truth to it.
So what example should you set? It’s all here in what I’ve written. Show them you have a real goal, one that you’ve thought out and refined, not one that needs to be changed every week. Inspire them to their maximum effort by putting out your own maximum effort every day. That’s your example, and that’s the strength of your influence.