Leadership is not something that should only be expected from persons in management positions. Everyone can and should display leadership qualities irrespective of position, circumstance, age or views. I had a session with a leadership team and had them do the activity of selecting ten individuals to sit around their dinner table. Each dinner guest earned a seat at the table because the host identified one or more qualities in the guest that inspires and motivates them to be good leaders to their teams. The guests selected were a mixture of well-known leaders and influencers, but also family members, friends and colleagues. It was particularly the leadership qualities valued in family members, friends and colleagues that struck me the most. Normally, most people tend to impress and select well-known individuals. What I took away from this session, was not just the valuable leadership qualities of their guests, but also the authenticity and pride in those close to them. To me the emotional connection the hosts have with their guests, made them buy into a commitment to embracing the values and qualities themselves in order to continue to grow as leaders themselves. I have no doubt that you will resonate with what this group has shared with me.
Fathers and grandfathers were guests because, despite coming from sometimes unsafe or poor backgrounds, with no education, being illiterate – they focused on bettering their circumstances by working hard to create better lives for their families. Being a bit of an alpha male can be described in this context as a leadership quality because there was no fear of speaking out and saying what they wanted, when they wanted to. They were guests for demonstrating how to take ownership of tasks in order to earn a living, and having a strong work ethic by continuing to work until a job was done. This was at times until their very last breath.
Mothers and grandmothers were guests for demonstrating how to keep going despite challenges and tough times, and even when all they wanted to do was give up. It was acknowledged by the hosts that these amazing women constantly put their own needs aside to take the lead and ensure their families had what they needed. One of the heart-breaking examples hereof was about a mother losing her daughter, stepping in to be the parent to her grandchildren, and in so doing, having to put her own pain of losing her child aside. Then there was the provision of constant guidance through different stages of life. And, almost always, mothers will forgive whatever you may do that you should not have, and help you back onto your path even if you have strayed over and over again.
Our partners demonstrate leadership by being open, honest and frank when nobody else may respect you or care for you enough to know you deserve to be told the hard truth about everything you do or say, even when you might not like what you hear. They often will have the opposite approach from you to almost everything. This can keep you thinking and give you a different perspective on something. Partners are not always the most logical, especially when emotional, but at times being illogical can also change your thinking.
Grandparents, parents, partners, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles were acknowledged for demonstrating leadership qualities such as making sacrifices by cutting short their own education to earn money to assist the financially struggling family, or to step up and take care of older siblings because parents were no longer around to do so. Some were prepared to take risks if there was an opportunity to create a better life for those they were responsible for.
Friends and colleagues were also among the guests who earned seats at the tables with this group. Qualities identified here were things like authenticity, wisdom, fairness, support, guidance, identifying potential, and creating an encouraging space for them to develop personally and professionally.
Then of course there was the well-known guests who earned seats at the tables. They were the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Richard Branson, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Angelo, Anne Frank, Meryl Streep, Harvey Milk, and John C Maxwell to name just a few. The leadership qualities identified in these individuals were also their life stories, the impact of what they stood for or against, teachings, creativity, care for others, unapologetic authenticity, charisma, consistency, and commitment.
Overall, I hope that you have taken away from this post that the leadership qualities identified in the well-known individuals comes through clearly in the qualities demonstrated by the guests personally known to the hosts. In fact, the weight of their qualities outweigh those of the great well-known leaders in my view. Guests who were family and friends inspired the team of leaders based on their life experiences. They demonstrated courage, coupled with a strong set of values. Even when they didn’t have a standard, they set their own and it was all with a greater end in mind. They were selfless and made sacrifices for the sake of those close to them to progress.
Learning is all around us all the time. Be more open and aware to valuable leadership qualities. We just need to look for those qualities that can help us further our growth as leaders in our own spaces, giving the best versions of ourselves to the people we are responsible for, and hope that they identify in us some of these amazing qualities, to perhaps seat us at their table should they ever put together their own leadership table.
Until next time…
Yours in Adapting & Being