The stories you tell are the stories that define you.  As you travel through you career to create the well-paved road from individual contribution to team leader and finally to the leadership role that you covet, you learn to tell stories through your actions.  Actions those are synonymous with leading by example.  But largely, it is these stories that help leaders learn lessons. Stories that can be told and learnt from.  Stories that leave a legacy.

This past week I had two very interesting conversations with a couple of my new clients – both C-Suite Leaders.  One gentleman from a major Investment services firm and the other from the retail sector.  Both have similar views in mind around the qualities that make for great Leadership and some unique experiences that shaped their journey.  In this blog, we travel with Derek and Jeremy and talk about personal experiences, viewpoints and stories that summarize in my opinion the Eight Essentials of Effective Leadership.

Leaders are shaped not only based on their personal experiences but also reflect the organizational culture.  Humility is a vital quality not only in a leader but also in an organization.  In order to continue to prosper and grow it is very important that leaders become good listeners and continue to seek and solicit ideas from others, irrespective of their level in management.  More so in a rapidly changing world environment, the need to perceive changes and react even faster to them require the ability of leaders to go beyond their thoughts and acknowledge others’ perspectives.  Displaying humility by no account means that the leader should be perceived as meek or quiet.  As Derek, the Chief Marketing Officer of a major retail brand in the region points out, “A success of a leader not just depends on his abilities but also his team.  And the earlier you realize this humbling fact, the stronger followership you create”.

A lot of leaders are often heard saying that they attribute the organization’s and their success to the culture of the enterprise.  But if one truly reflects on the statement, then it is the leaders who define this culture through their Energy.  Sometimes leaders inherit an organizational culture and it is up to them to continue with the momentum or change it.  Leadership is often about creating an environment that showcases positive energy which transcend to every level of the organization.  I have been working with a young gentleman who has started a software development firm and being a start-up with a group of ten people who are mostly virtual he stresses the need to share a common spirit of energy to keep them moving forward and towards achieving more.

While leadership is often about energizing and motivating others, sometimes it does get lonely at the top.  The balance is not easy to strike when you want to build a team and work with others and at the same time lead from the front.  A leader often needs time to make those difficult decisions which cannot be shared with a large number of people and has to take up on him/herself the tough act and make difficult choices.  But what makes a successful leader is sometimes those who have that ‘hunch’, that ‘Leadership Intuition’.  Most leaders have often confided that in spite of the facts being presented to them they have taken on risks which have proved to be successful later.  How do they do it? What do they rely on? My client Jeremy, who is on the board of a large investment firm in the region makes a point to always meet with the other party before signing a deal.  “I have often walked away from signing a deal when I have felt that I cannot trust the people I am doing business with”.  Many people may call it different things, but it is that instinctive leadership intuition that separates them from the many.

The first thing I discuss with all my clients is what they are trying to achieve out of the coaching process with me and then embark on a goal-setting exercise.  And through this process we also write out the client’s vision statement – the ideal ‘to-be’ state.  Most leaders have a clear sense of Vision as to what they aspire to be and most importantly where they want to be versus where they are now.  But dynamic leaders also realize something critical.  That in a changing world success is dependent upon how one evolves and with evolution one needs to continue to work on that vision.  Hence having a visionary mind is more important than just having a vision statement.  I keep stressing this important criterion to my clients – that leadership is not about reaching that one peak but conquering a range of mountains.

I have often written and coached on why Perspective matters – what defines perspective and how to seek it.  I strongly feel that perspective is a great leveler.  It teaches you where you stand vis-à-vis a bunch of different variables.  Perspectives give you the depth to understand what matters from the point of view of your employees, your customers, your colleagues and your competitors.  In defining leadership, it is extremely important that you continue to seek perspective – a great tool to make that informed decision and continue to grow through feedback.

Passion is the greatest driver in an individual to continue to excel in what they do.  And it is passion that is your biggest ally when all else fails and you need to tread on that path.  Many a times a leader is tested for what they believe in.  And many a times it is those who come out successful dousing the fires of unrest are those who have passion in what they do.  Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, was noted for his strong work ethic. He once said, “Commit to your business. I think I overcame every single one of my shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work.”

Leadership is as much as about being tested at every step of the way along with ensuring success.  Leaders often find themselves in situations where their decisions are tested and challenged either by the shareholders or the customers or the employees.  It is often the Conviction of a leader that makes him stand on his own and continue on the path that he has charted out.  As my client Derek mentioned that last year he had found himself in a position where he had to delay the launch of a product-line that was to be introduced in the market.  Derek felt that this was not the right time from an economic perspective.  Also being August and a large part of the population being on holidays it would not get the market response desired.  While the manufacturer and the buyers put a huge amount of pressure on him, he held on to his conviction of taking the right decision to stall and in the end it paid off.  When introduced last year in October the market was much more responsive to the new product line.

Last but definitely not least, an essential quality in any great leader is their continuous thirst for Learning.  The moment you feel that there is nothing to learn anymore, then you have been visited by a not-so-good friend called Arrogance.  And a leader learns from every experience – personal and/or professional and from every one.  And it is not always learning that sets the tone for continued growth but more importantly it is implementing the learning which proves to be far more difficult.

On that note, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes on leadership, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. ~Abraham Lincoln

As always I solicit your feedback and thoughts.  Please keep writing.

Till then,