What do you think about when you hear the word leadership? What does exceptional leadership mean to you? Yes, they are truly two different things. There are leaders, and then there are exceptional leaders. When I think about leadership I think about people that are setting a standard, someone that is guiding another along the way. The true definition of leadership by Merriam-Webster, "is the capacity to lead." Have you ever met those individuals that are called natural born leaders? You know that ones that are bold, and have the ability to lead, with little or no instruction. There is just something about them that people seem to gravitate towards them. Then there are those individuals that strive to be leaders, and in leadership positions, that are trained.
I love to study leaders, those that have natural abilities to lead and those that have learned to lead. I truly believe that those that have natural abilities still need to be cultivated and learn proper techniques in how to properly lead. With additional training and coaching, they become even more effective, and unstoppable. There is a huge difference between a leader and an exceptional leader. I’m sure all of us can say we've worked for some good leaders but few can say they have worked for exceptional leaders. In fact, until you've had an exceptional leader, you may not even know what to look for. Funny thing is that we always know when someone is ineffective.
Leading is a great responsibility and managing to do it effectively helps to develop and grown future leaders. An exceptional leader empowers, and develops what individuals may not even see on the inside of themselves. Exceptional leaders don't have one way of leading, they are able to adjust and know when and how far to push. They are problem solvers. They anticipate problems, and have potential solutions before anything happens. They are able to work with someone and pull out the greatness inside of them. They captivate the attention of others. They are infectious. Their attitude, their ability to see people, their ability to reproduce in others their success causes people to be drawn to them.
A few weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night reaching for my cell phone to write down what was being given to me. I heard God so clearly that I had to write it down, I had no idea why he was giving this to me, nor did I think about it much I was tired. I simply started jotting things in my phone, and promptly went back to sleep. Have you ever done that. I didn't even see clearly what I was typing I just put it down and figured, I would read it in the morning. I've been sitting on it for weeks, not sure exactly what do to with it. So today, I'm going to share what was shared with me that night. Although I'm adding context around it, I heard eight distinct characteristics of Christ that shows what an exceptional leader does.
Knew His purpose and mission- A good leader leads but at times lacks direction but an exceptional leader knows his/her purpose, and mission. If you are leading a group of people, you must know where you are going or how do you expect for them to follow you. In order for people to align with your vision, you first have to have one. In order for people to fall in line with the mission they need to know YOU understand it.
Lead by example- Throughout the life of Christ he led his disciples. He didn't just tell them what to do and have them do it. He showed them through his own life. He prepared them through the way he managed situations and life. We are our children's first teachers. I remember when my youngest was just learning to talk and walk and he would start to do something and I would say where did he get that? Then later I would hear or see me do the same thing and realized, he was learning it from me. I needed to set a better example. When you are a leader, you must show your team and individuals how to manage situations, and reproduce in them their leadership abilities. We need to lead by example to the point that everyone under us becomes leaders not just followers.
Created a learning environment- Everything Jesus did was a teachable moment. Everything that happened, and was recorded showed teachable moments, that He took advantage of to teach His disciples. Exceptional leaders, create learning environments, so that leaders can grow, and produce other leaders. Create an environment where we win or learn but never lose. This is something my husband says all the time. We "learn" we never lose.
Encouraged self-growth- When you look at how Jesus managed his disciples you can honestly say, he created a culture of self-growth. He didn't expect them to know everything immediately, he would encourage them to think out of the box, or manage things differently. Think about Peter, he encouraged him to walk on water. He encouraged self-growth. An exceptional leader is not afraid of people growing and becoming better, than what they are today. Why, because they are developing leaders not followers.
Lived a life of example- His life was a true example daily to His disciples and those that followed Him. What do you want to reproduce? When you live a life of example it is not done intentionally it is who you are. It is your character showing through in every area of your life, to show others how to live. While Jesus was perfect, the goal isn't for us to be perfect, it is to be authentic and a good person.
Activated the gifts in others- How many times have you worked for someone that appreciated or acknowledged the gifts you have inside of you? An exceptional leader will see the gifts inside of you and work to develop and activate those inside of you. There will be people that come into your life that will cause something inside of you to leap. That's a connection you want to make, because they activated something in you. You may not know what, but something they said, did, or who they are caused something in you to say, "I need more". There are people like that in my life, and I call them my mentors and teachers. They're the ones I want to spend time with, not for any particular reason, just to learn.
Sent them out to continue the work- The vision and mission doesn't stop with you. If it does, then you haven't replicated it in others. While the techniques and process may be different, the mission and vision continues to grow and be established in others. An exceptional leader doesn't hold someone back from continuing they encourage it. Just as a parent wants their children to be more accomplished than they are, a leader should feel the same. I'm not offended or upset when someone I've led becomes stronger or better than I am, that means I've done my job well, and they are replicating in others. When Jesus was leading his disciples, they were only ministering to the people of Israel. When His time was up and he sent His disciples out, they were reaching a broader group. They were to reach the gentiles, so there was expansion. That was the purpose, to continue to grow and expand.
Genuinely cared for His people- Jesus loved and genuinely cared about those that served with Him. Leaders must genuinely care for those that under their leadership. We are managing people, not just projects or things but PEOPLE. If you don't genuinely care for people or have your own agenda at the forefront, you will not be able to captivate others in a way that will impact and empower them. The greatest leaders I have served with have always made me feel that I'm important and the things and people that are important in my life, are important to them as well.
Being an extraordinary leader means that you are equipping and replicating in others. What you put in, is what you will get out so learning how to effectively lead is critical to your business, and life. Learn to follow the lead of an extraordinary leader by knowing your mission, what is your overall goal and communicating it well. Lead by example, don't just bark orders at people, be a leader, show them how to do the things that need to be done. Show them how to work together, and the attitude they should exhibit. Allow the environment you are in to be one that gives individuals the ability to learn. We all need to learn, so create that environment for your people. Encourage your team or staff to grow. Their talents may not be an area of your expertise, but encourage them to grow them. Encourage them to grow their abilities, or learn new ones. Live a life of example for others to follow, this will make the difference to even those that are not part of your team. People are watching rather you believe they are or not. Activate the gifts in other people. Find what they are good at, what their passion is, and activate that inside of them. If people are doing what they love, they will love what they do, and you will better results in the end. Don't try to keep people in a position just simply because it makes it easier for you. Encourage them to expand their wings, and get out of the nest. By them growing and going, it creates space for someone else to come in and grow. Don't be intimidated by your teams growth, you're the reason for it, so celebrate with them. Finally, but in my opinion the most important thing, is truly care and love those that are working with you. They know if you are authentic or not, so please genuinely care for your people.
In our coaching business, we truly believe we are better together. We grow together, learn from one another, and promote self-growth. If you would like to learn more about our leadership coaching please contact us for a consultation, we would love to work with you.