An Open Letter to Leaders

Dear Leaders (and Leaders-in-Training):
The days of top down, command and control managerial leaders are a thing of the past. Today’s leaders are vulnerable, collaborative, aspirational, and inspirational. Today’s leaders are globally connected and community focused. Today’s leaders are building empires and leaving legacies. Do you have what it takes to be a top leader in today’s fast-paced, constantly changing world?
So, what does it take to be an amazing leader? I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not about a title or position. It’s not about tenure or seniority. It’s not about intelligence or degrees. And it sure as hell isn’t about age. Amazing leaders can be found at any level of an organization. Wherever there is a group of people – in schools, non-profits, homes, Fortune 500 companies, governments and churches – leaders show up. Are you one of them? When people are searching for guidance, looking for direction, or asking for decisions to be made, do you step up and lead?
Great players (i.e. star employees, co-workers, etc.) don’t always make great leaders and that’s okay. Take Michael Jordan, for example. Perhaps one of the greatest basketball players of all time with 6 championship wins. As owner of the Charlotte Hornets his record is less impressive. Someone who is a great basketball player needs to become a different person to lead a team. Not everyone is up for the challenge. Are you?
If you have your mind on leadership and leadership on your mind, you’ve got to ask yourself if you are willing to change and grow into the person you need to be (which takes years of purposeful effort). Leadership is not a passive activity. You can’t just sit back and watch events unfold and have pleasant conversations over afternoon tea. You have to get into the arena and have tough, really tough, conversations and make gut-wrenching decisions that effect other people’s lives. Leadership is knowing that not everyone will be happy with your decisions, but you make them anyway, trusting that you are doing the right thing for your company. You have to be okay with being publicly criticized about the decisions you make. You will never be able to make everyone happy. Once you move from the sidelines into the arena, it’s a different game. You will be judged and judged hard. You will either thrive on the pressure or it will break you – there is no gray in the leadership world. You’re either in or you’re not.
Leadership ain’t pretty and yet it’s one of the greatest things you can do. Still want to be a leader? Then you’ve got to ask yourself:
  • Am I willing to go above and beyond what your job requires every day?
  • Am I a team player and consistently putting the good of the company and the good of the team ahead of myself?
  • Am I leading myself first by reading, exercising, journaling, meditating, etc . daily?
  • Am I teaching others how to think differently by asking powerful and purposeful questions ?
  • Am I role modeling the behavior of a leader?
  • Am I adding massive value to others and intent on making someone else’s life better?
  • Are people coming to me regularly for leadership advice and guidance?
Were you able to answer “yes” to all of these questions? Good. You’re on the right track. Did you discover that you still have some work to do? Great. It’s not going to be easy, but awareness is the first step. Now it’s about taking the necessary steps in order to develop influence and build your leadership skills.
It’s really difficult to move from the stands and into the arena. Most people are unable to withstand the stress and end up laying down their sword and climbing back into the stands. But that is the difference between mediocrity and greatness. There is pain in either path – the pain of mediocrity or the pain of growth. You get to decide. Greatness means picking up the sword and going into battle over and over again no matter how many times you get knocked down. True leaders are rare and the world needs more of them. People who are not satisfied with the status quo and who are unafraid of the ridicule they will receive. People who can withstand the pain, pressure, and loneliness of leadership.
If you feel the call to become an amazing leader than it is your duty to answer. You can not assume that others will rise to the challenge, because they won’t. Leadership is the ultimate test of vulnerability and perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give to the people around you. When others are sitting back, resting on their laurels, when others are keeping their heads down and their mouths shut… Be bold. Be brave. Stand up and lead.
Don’t fear the fight. Fight forward,

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