When I was 14 years old I had a seminal life experience. This experience provided the nudge I needed to help me determine what I wanted to do with my life. The experience? An older family member tried to convince me that highly successful people were born to be successful and that unsuccessful people were born to be unsuccessful. I tried to convince this person that successful people learned to be successful and that unsuccessful people learned to be unsuccessful but they wouldn't budge. In fact, they dug their heels in deeper and deeper. This conversation left me incredibly frustrated but also highly motivated.
As a result of this encounter, I have been thinking about the attributes of highly successful people for most of my life. So much so that researching and teaching about topics such as leadership became my career. As a strategy consultant I study highly successful people and I get to share the results of my research through one of our workshops, keynotes or writings. I truly believe I have the greatest job in the world. Each and every day I am humbled, energized and inspired by stories of greatness.
I thought about this experience from 35 years ago this past weekend. I attended a party with my significant other, her co-workers and their significant others. Somewhere along the way I was asked what I do for a living. I explained my job to the small group I was sitting with and also mentioned that I have had the exact same job for the past 21 years. Somebody followed up by asking: "what's next for you... where do you go from here?" My answer? "I have the greatest job in the world and I will do it for the rest of my life." So thank you to that family member for the nudge. You gave me the fuel I needed to go out into the wilderness in search of Snow Leopard Leaders.
We hope you have enjoyed our ten-part series on Snow Leopard Leaders. Leadership is one of my favorite topics to research, analyze and discuss. In our series we discussed the 7 critical leadership styles (Ethos, Knowledge, Vision, Operational, Emotional, Intrepid and Track-Record). We also introduced readers to The Snow Leopard Leader. To close out the series I wanted to provide a few of our most essential foundational research highlights gleaned from our studies. I hope these help further your understanding of The Snow Leopard Leader concept and also the general idea of effective leadership.
1. Leadership Can Be Learned - This point usually stirs up a lot of debate. Whether we like it or not, leadership is a social skill and social skills can be learned. Snow Leopard Leaders can be built through study, experience, training, coaching, incentives and mentoring. If you don't believe me just go out and ask your friendly neighborhood neuroscientist to explain all that we have learned about the brain and how it works over the past 25 years.
2. Leadership Requires A Following - You have to be able to get others behind you to truly be considered a leader. True leadership is all about being able to influence other people. They have to believe in you and the direction you set for them. The following might not be there at the beginning but, ultimately, leadership requires the creation of an enthusiastic following.
3. Leadership Runs On EQ Fuel - Emotional Intelligence or EQ is an essential ingredient in the formula for leadership success. Snow Leopard Leaders check all four of the EQ boxes. They are highly self-aware, incredible self-managers, keenly socially-aware and masters of relationship management.
4. Leadership Should Have A Multiplier Effect - When leaders are most effective they do more than create a following of followers. Snow Leopard Leaders turn their followers into leaders and, as a result, they create a team filled with leaders. Teams populated with cooperative, collaborative leaders usually outperform the rest.
5. Leadership Isn't Always Loud - In fact, very often leadership is fairly quiet. Think about a scientist who, for example, might be very shy and introverted. They do their work in their lab and are not very comfortable delivering speeches so they publish their findings in a medical journal instead. They do very little speaking but their paper goes viral. They are still providing great leadership and they are still creating an enthusiastic following. Snow Leopards are sometimes very quiet and they let their work do the leading.
6. Leaders Aren't Always Better Than Their Followers - Sometimes we think that the leader becomes the leader by being better at their job than everybody else. For example, sometimes we make the best salesperson the sales manager. Just because they can sell doesn't mean they can lead, coach, teach etc. Leadership is a different skill set and should be treated as such. Think about professional sports for a minute. A lot of the best coaches didn't even play in the pros, but now they are the best coaches in the pros. And, a lot of the best players were miserable failures when they tried to coach.
7. Leadership Skill Is Measured By Successes Of Others - The fruits of the leaders labor can be gauged by the successes of those they've led. A leader is in the business of making other people as successful as they possibly can be. The more successes you create, the greater the likelihood you qualify as a Snow Leopard Leader. Snow Leopards are focused on helping others realize their full potential.
8. Leaders Should Be Followers Too - Great leaders know when to lead and they also know when to follow. Following is actually a hallmark attribute of the Snow Leopard Leader. Putting others out in front and letting them lead when they are most qualified to do so is one of the ways leaders create a following. A leader can actually follow to create a following which, makes them even more of a leader which, will increase the size of their following etc. Sometimes we must follow to lead.
9. Leaders Share The Spotlight - In every profession I have studied I find countless examples of a leader deferring to his/her teammates. Some even do it in a self-depreciating kind of way. My favorite example is hockey great Wayne Gretzky. He is, by all measures, the greatest hockey player to ever walk the face of the earth. He led one of the greatest teams ever assembled. But, if you watch him in an interview after a big win, it is always his teammates he credits with the victory. Snow Leopard leaders share the credit, share the spotlight and share the success.
10. Leadership Can Be Dangerous - I apologize for ending on a sour note but this is an incredibly important cautionary message. Many people - throughout history - have used their leadership talents and personal charisma to lead good people down negative paths. Leaders, at their worst, can be highly persuasive, manipulative and seductive. It is important for us all to align ourselves with authentic, values based, ethical leaders and causes. Who we choose to follow can affect our long term reputation and track-record. Follow the good and avoid the bad.
In the coming weeks and months we will continue to post and share more of our research findings. Please feel free to let us know if there are topics you would like for us to consider.
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