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Creating Successful Leaders

Reaching for StarWhat comes to mind when you hear the word “leader”? The captain of a team, perhaps? The lead soloist in an orchestra, or the director of a play?

I’d say these are all classic examples, as leaders like these inspire others to follow, thrive in the spotlight, and break new ground with their achievements. When we witness such leaders in action, it’s only natural to wonder: how did they get like that? Are great leaders born naturals, or did they learn and cultivate their skills?

To answer this, we must first dispel the myth that all leaders fit into the same cookie-cutter outlines. The examples I listed above, while all good ones, leave out many other kinds of influential leaders. Mentors, tutors, coaches, and other one-on-one roles are examples of leadership conducted behind the scenes. Similarly, parenting is a type of constant leadership that rarely gets awards or praise. There are scores of leaders who make their mark quietly, without any fanfare.

Once we see that leaders are a large, diverse group of people with all sorts of natural gifts and skills, it’s easier to see where our talents could apply to a leadership capacity. Undoubtedly, some people are naturally better equipped to fill many types of leadership roles, but no leader becomes great without dedicating time and effort into becoming better. And the biggest asset a leader has? Self-awareness.

In her article on Forbes’ website, author and coach Erika Anderson says her experience has shown the best leaders are self-aware: “Without exception, the more self-aware someone is, the easier he or she is to coach; the more improvable and better able to accept what they need in order to improve.”  I wholeheartedly agree. In my coaching experience, there’s not much you can do to help someone who is unwilling or unable to see themselves in a realistic light. I’ve had much more success coaching someone of modest skills who is self-aware.

Know your strengths, know your weaknesses, and know where you plug in to the world around you. This is the big idea behind self-awareness. You may possess amazing speaking skills, or a gift for innovative ideas, but if you cannot even accurately see who you are, and where you fit in, you’ll never be able to lead others.

That’s my thought for this week, and can you believe that next week is already August? I hope you’ve gotten a chance to get outdoors!

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