Leadership Traits to Transform Your Life
I've been thinking about the transformations that I've been privy to see clients and friends achieve in their lives as well as take an outsider’s view of my own transformation. Each transformation a person undertakes is a very personal journey. I think of transformations as a person blazing their own trail through the wilderness.
What I've noticed as a recurring theme is that one of the keys to a successful transformation is what I'll call personal leadership. Personal leadership has nothing to do with leading others. Personal leadership is about:
Taking a leadership role in your own life.
Having a clear picture of what you want to achieve and what success means to you.
How you want to “be” while blazing your trail towards achievement and your definition of success.
Taking personal responsibility for your own life.
Thoughtfully choosing your response to the world around you, even when your “buttons” get pushed.
Taking action and moving forward towards the life you want to create for yourself.
Having the courage to risk failure in the pursuit of your dreams.
Having the wisdom to apply the learning from your failure.
Some years ago, my friend and mentor, John Voitel, composed a list of leadership characteristics for me. Out of the list he compiled, I extracted items and added some items to create a list that I believe to be applicable to personal leadership. Here's the list I came up with:
Openness to Suggestion (Open Minded)
Care and Concern
I’ve put together some thoughts on these characteristics to help those of you who are looking for support and guidance on your transformative journey. My goal is to provide you with the map and the compass that will support you in navigating to the success you desire.
If you have any suggestions to add to this list, please share them with me. My intention is for this to be a communal gathering of wisdom that we can share with each other as a way to help us all blaze our individual trails as each of us navigates our way towards our unique definition of success.
This post highlights some of the top leadership characteristics required for personal success. We’ll explore the definition for each, why they’re important and how someone might develop these traits/characteristics in themselves?
In order to transform your life, you must have a high level of integrity. All of the books I’ve read around transformation and leadership point to integrity as a foundational component. You must be brutally honest and candid with yourself.
Let’s start with some definitions for integrity:
Mirriam - Websters - “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility.”
One of my favorite quotes that defines integrity is “doing the right thing even if no one is watching.” For me, this quote describes the depth and breadth of integrity.
The thing that strikes me about these definitions is the ambiguity of them. Who defines the moral values, the ethical code, or the right thing? This is very subjective and really based on the context of the situation. In order to live a life of integrity, therefore, a person must understand his/her core values. These become the guiding principles around which each person’s definition of integrity is built. Core values are what guides a person on how to “be” as s/he blazes a unique trail through life. And, how to “be” in life ultimately impacts how things are accomplished.
How does this apply to personal leadership? Imagine the dilemma you would have if you lacked integrity...even with yourself. I would imagine people choosing to live their lives without integrity would spend a lot of time self-justifying their behavior to themselves and to other people. In reality, only you really know what your motivations are when you do something. Do you do the “right” thing in your mind? Or, do you justify your behavior because you have an ulterior motive or you deem someone as “unworthy” of your help and support? Without integrity, you would be using the wrong topographical map to blaze your trail through life.
In my experience, there are times when people act in a way that is not in full integrity. I believe it happens to everyone. In my experience, usually it’s not malicious or premeditated. It’s caused by a compromise between values. When I recognize that this has happened in my life, the questions I ask myself are what motivated the behavior and what have I learned from the experience. I want to make sure that if I have an “indiscretion” with regards to integrity on some level, I am able to figure out the circumstances, determine what led to it so that I can learn from the experience, make it right if need be, and move ahead by applying my learning.
What is your view of integrity and how it fits in with your desire to transform your life? How do you handle situations where you realize you were out of integrity in some way? What support would be helpful to you in living your life with integrity more fully?
The next leadership trait we’ll cover is trust. Let's start our with a couple of definitions:
assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
one in which confidence is placed
reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
Nothing surprising there.
For me, trust is that base or foundation for all relationships. The level of trust I have built with other people in my life is bolstered, maintained, or torn down every day based on my actions along with an understanding of my motivation. This, in turn, influences the depth of the relationships I have with other people.
So, how does trust relate to personal leadership? Well, can you honestly lead your own life if you lack a deep seated trust of yourself? I doubt it. You must be able to rely on your own integrity, strength, ability, and truth. As the level of trust with other people is shaped based on your actions, so to is your trust in yourself.
How do you build trust in yourself? One thing is that you must quiet those voices in your head that rip you down and steal your power. These voices do not serve you in any way even though they often want you to believe that they are there to protect you. Replace these with positive affirmations of your integrity, strength and ability. Start looking for examples in your life where you've exhibited these characteristics and use them as anchors that help you build your personal power. And, in situations where you lack trust in yourself, take time to examine why this occurred. Did you lack confidence in your ability? Did you lack the strength in some way? Did you compromise your integrity in some way? Are you reluctant to face your personal truths? Is this a pattern in your life?
Once you begin trusting yourself, you can begin building your transformation. If you have taken time to understand what you want in life and are really aligned with it, you must trust that you would know better than anyone else what you must do to achieve it. Even if you claim to not know, deep down, you do. When I catch myself in a moment of being unsure of what to do next, I ask myself what I would do if I did know what to do. This is trusting yourself enough to move forward.
You must also trust your intuition, your gut, your instincts because they often know things well before you mind has unlocked the logic. In the book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell writes about a firefighter on a call who knew that the fire they were fighting was not responding as expected. Realizing that something wasn't kosher, he ordered his men out of the building moments before the floor collapsed where they were standing. Trusting your instincts is invaluable.
There's really no need to be an expert or seek perfection in every aspect of your life. This is trusting that you have the ability to figure things out as you go. A friend once asked me, “Do you I wait for every light to turn green before you start driving your car somewhere?” “Of course not,” I said. He then asked, “why would you wait to have all of the answers before you start pursuing something in your life?”
Having a dream or a goal as a destination is sometimes enough. The bigger the goal and the further out in the future it is, the fuzzier the intermediate steps and objectives will be. And, by starting the process of moving towards it, you will be able to validate assumptions and your plans as they unfold. Just as importantly, trust that you'll have the ability to adapt, to learn as you go, to adjust your plans, and to improvise as you move forward. If you encounter some failures along the way, trust that you will learn from the experience and keep moving forward.
In the end, the trust you have with yourself is the foundation upon which you build your relationship with yourself. Developing a high level of trust with yourself is a key dependency in any transformation you want to undertake.
How will you choose to develop trust with yourself? How do you envision building trust with yourself will impact your life?
Perserverance is perpendicular to optimism. I call it perpendicular because optimism fuels and enhances perseverance enabling people to continue blazing their trail and achieving their goals. I think of optimism as the “trail magic” that hikers on the Appalachian Trail sometimes experience.
Let’s start with the definition of perseverance:
Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state,etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure
persistent determination to adhere to a plan of direction; insistence
Levels of Perseverance
Let’s look at perseverance on a sliding scale. On one end is patience. On the other end is tenacity. Both will help move you forward towards accomplishing your goals. Patience is more passive, like waiting for someone to get back to you. Conversely, tenacity is action-oriented, like persistently following up with someone until you get an answer.
One factor that determines where people fall on the scale is their level of commitment and conviction to a goal (see the chart below). The late Christopher Reeve is quoted as saying, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” Christopher Reeve was tenacious. It’s clear that individuals who are committed to a goal will take action. The higher the level of commitment and conviction, the more likely people are to be tenacious. The exception to this rule is people who choose to be victims who are patient and passive regardless of their commitment to their goals.
It takes a lot of courage to be tenacious. Sometimes there’s an element of fighting the establishment in order to propel your cause forward, which takes courage especially when you’re on the “bleeding edge” of a movement. Facing your gremlins/saboteurs takes courage. Overcoming the temptation to blame others for what happens takes courage. And, avoiding judging others because they have a different view takes courage as well.
Perseverance & Transformation
Perseverance is necessary when transforming your life because...well, shit happens. It could be unintended consequences or people in your life who are holding you back. It may be some new kernel of wisdom learned through experience that gives you pause or radically changes your goals. If we’re looking for real change in our lives, we must be open to changing more than what we originally thought such as the company we keep, the stories we tell ourselves, the way we treat ourselves, and the history we’ve kept. Perseverance fueled by our commitment and conviction of what will be, along with some trail magic, is what will keep us moving forward.
Inquiries for Pondering
When pursuing your dreams, how committed are you?
Are you being more patient or tenacious in pursuit of your goals?
How are you enhancing your optimism or other trail magic?
When I think of reliable people, I think of people who are dependable and have a high degree of integrity. This includes communicating clearly what they will do and when, then meeting that commitment. And, because reliability involves building trust, everything they say and do will impact other people’s perception of how reliable they are. They build or tear down trust with everything that they do and every commitment that they keep or break. To be reliable, other people must be willing to count on them.
When applied to personal transformation, there are other aspects to reliability. One distinction is that you need to count on you. Personal transformation is all about you, and your opinion of the trail you blaze is the one that matters. Only you know how reliable and accountable you are to yourself. Are you able to keep your commitments to yourself, whether they be exercising regularly, investing in your growth in some way, eating healthy foods or taking time to enjoy life?
I’ve noticed that some people set such high standards for themselves that meeting their own expectations is unrealistic, which may impact their perception of reliability. Some people establish stretch goals in order to strive to achieve more than what they would ordinarily accomplish. If you choose to do this, you must handle this properly because you risk setting yourself up for failure. This, in turn, could result in your saboteurs and gremlins running wild by telling you how you’re not [something] enough (feel free to substitute your saboteur’s own favorite adjective). If negative self-talk becomes a habit, it can rob you of the momentum needed to climb the next hill.
The other extreme I’ve witnessed is people who are undisciplined and unable to hold themselves accountable. Mental discipline is necessary to stay focused and dedicated to achieving a goal. Without this discipline, personal reliability erodes and is replaced with procrastination, avoidance, apathy and/or blaming others. Certainly, there may be underlying reasons in some circumstances that cause this thinking. The key is realizing whether there is a pattern of consistently thinking this way about certain tasks, particular activities, or is it a generalized habit. I am very familiar with this as it’s a pattern I’ve worked to change in my life.
One method to help increase your reliability is to enlist an accountability partner. Select someone you know whom you respect, trust, and are willing to listen to when s/he shares perceptions. Or, you may be more willing to listen to someone you’re not as close to. Coaches are a good source for accountability partners.
To learn more about having an accountability partner, feel free to contact me.
Inquiries for Pondering
On a scale of 1-10, where would you rate your reliability with yourself?
What would it look and feel like if you were at a 10?