In the true words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

That’s it, article over…
Only kidding.

How many of you, just like me spend hours on Google, Pinterest or even Instagram searching for the most inspirational leadership quotes on a daily basis? We are inundated with famous quotes from illustrious leaders and invented quotes from business leaders, but no-one actually ever tells you how or why they’ve become such a great leader. What is it that’s driven them through their careers to become so successful and powerful, was it luck or a plan working towards a structured goal? Were they born part of the “scrapper” or “silver spoon” generations and if so did this play a role in shaping their futures?

I’ve decided to delve a bit deeper and explore some, not all, of the key traits that I believe truly profile leaders. Developing leadership skills is like building a house; you need your foundation and once that’s laid you can start building it up brick by brick. In this instance, I’ve chosen four cornerstones which I believe to be the foundation on which leaders build up their reputation. I call it CITE (as I’m sure many of you can cite famous leadership quotes, see what I’ve done there J)

Let’s have a look at my four cornerstones;

Some may say that truly great speakers are born with this talent. Yes, that might be accurate; certain people naturally have a flair for “public speaking” and can interact with people from all walks of life and stature. For the majority of us though, this is a skill that is nurtured over time.

By communication, I don’t mean a great talker, I am referring to those leaders who can speak to a crowd and connect with their emotions and aspirations. As a leader you ultimately want people to champion your ideas and follow you as you lead the way forward, you will only achieve this if your communication takes deep root with your audience. Ever had someone say to you; “you can hear me, but you are not listening”? Great communicators are fantastic listeners and very astute in their observations, they often place themselves in the shoes of the listeners and empathise with them. The best way to do this is to step away form the corporate jargon, stop reading your lengthy PA written note cards and interact with the listeners – think dialogue, not monologue.

Be engaging, be truthful and most important of all make it personal.

Ever come to a fork in the road and chose the easy way out? Yes, many of us have and we’ve even seen the tears and disgruntled faces of many leaders in newspapers and on televisions as they’ve come to a cornerstone in their careers and ultimately made the wrong choice.

I’ve always believed that “people by into people, not brands”. As a leader a lot of trust is placed in you making the right decisions, protecting the credibility of your people and in fact protecting your own credibility. Integrity is built up from having strong core values and being willing to “serve” and looking beyond your own self-interest. We can closely link integrity with communication. As I mentioned before – think dialogue, not monologue. Truly great leaders don’t bark out orders and expect others to follow; they seek input and do not give responsibility without any authority.

For most of you with a keen interest in NLP/ Personal Development or devout Tony Robins fans will understand when I say there is a huge difference between having a vision and a TRUE VISION. A true vision is unwavering; it will not be changed for anything or anyone. Forward thinking leaders can see things that others can’t, that is what makes them so powerful. They are willing to look beyond the now and keep the focus on their true vision.

In times of crises they will adopt clear strategies to keep them on the path to reach their true vision; they will simply alter their course but never their vision. Success always stems from having a clear true vision.

No-one has ever been successful if they keep changing the goal post because they’ve suddenly hit a bump in the road.

Inspirational leaders create their vision, interpret the vision, and passionately communicate the vision whilst relentlessly driving the team forward to reach the end goal.

I wholeheartedly believe that being passionate about what you do will bring you success and this applies to everyone and not just Leaders.

Think of someone you really look up to, or inspire to be like, are they passionate and energetic when they communicate or even just interact with people? Will you follow this person without question because you can see they are enthusiastic and really believe in their cause?

As a Leader, your sheer enthusiasm will attract people to you and help you to build rapport and more effectively sell your ideas. Interact with individuals in a positive manner, engage with them in topical debates and always 100% be yourself, because there simply is no time to be anyone else.

As they say, be passionate about what you do and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

There are many articles on “what makes a great leader” and everyone has a different viewpoint which most of the time makes for interesting debating material. In my opinion the true DNA of an inspirational leader is developed and nurtured over time, there is no quick two week crash course on being a great Leader, you can’t read four leadership books and think you know it all. Being an effective leader comes from failure and learning how to deal with rejection and falling down 7 times but having the courage to stand up the 8th time.

“A leader is someone who demonstrates what’s possible, Mark Yarnell”

Source: an-rensburg/