Are you working for a boss or following a leader?
Bosses have the authority to make decisions that affect their employees. You hear them say things like “If he doesn’t like it, he can leave,” or the ominous “That wasn’t a request.” You do as the boss says, right? Sure, and you keep your eyes open for a position with a company that prefers leaders to bosses — a company coincidentally that prefers inspired employees to process-perfect drones.
Leaders are a breed apart. They have a different kind of authority: the kind that inspires people to bring their best to their work.
It’s not difficult to spot a leader. Here are six attributes that give the best away:
1. Questing Spirit
Leaders lead toward something worthwhile. They are on a mission, spurred by a deep sense of purpose, and they’re taking others on the journey with them. Their questing spirit drives them to do more, to try more, to learn more, to reach more, to develop more, to be more. At the gala event to celebrate their achievements, they’re sketching the next idea on their cocktail napkin and are about to get a financing commitment. The people who want to be on their crew are already queuing.
Leaders are not alone. They have a net. Not a network. A net that is woven through thoughtful conversations with others, and countless acts of collaboration and consideration. The net is woven from genuine interest in others and from reciprocated respect. The net is not for calling in favors if push comes to shove. No. The net is there all the time and true leaders tend to it, extend it, and strengthen it with every interaction.
3. Clear-Eyed Confidence
You’ve seen athletes when they are in the zone, at the top of their abilities and knowing it, living it. I call it clear-eyed confidence. They know what they can do, and they do it. What looks effortless for them is the product of hours and hours of work, of pain, of sacrifice.
Leaders have that kind of focus, determination and ability to execute. They’ve learned from experience, they know when they have enough data to make a decision, and they make it without hesitation. They act with the confidence of having prepared well and being attuned to their instincts.
Leaders are known for their ability to handle complexity, to synthesize information and ideas, but they are equally known for their simplicity. Leaders are obsessed with the number one: “What is the one thing we want them to remember?” “Which one of our competitors will challenge us most on this?” “What is the one thing we have to accomplish this quarter?” Leaders are famously intolerant of excessive data points, muddy reporting, irrelevant distractions.
For leaders, resilience is a powerful bundle of agility, determination, persistence, graceful maneuvering around and over obstacles, and rapid recovery from setbacks.
6. Sense of Wonder
Leaders have a sense of wonder that is the source of their vision and the catalyst that refreshes and renews it. This is the elusive fountain of youth, fed by the springs of imagination, curiosity, openness. From that sense of wonder, leaders ask “What if …”. That simple turning of the tap is an invitation to all around to take a sip of the cool, clear waters of possibility.