By far, this is the best definition of a leader that I’ve discovered during the five plus years I’ve been writing about leadership. While attribution of the quote ranges from John Quincy Adams to Dolly Parton, its core message so eloquently captures the essential function of all leaders.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more,
and become more, you are a leader.”
As a leader, you must challenge others to grow. Challenge them in all four ways.
Tell all those who admire you, friends, coworkers, peers, and relatives, that they truly can achieve what they see in their mind’s eye. Great achievements begin with a dream. A vision of where you want to go in life, at work, or in your career. Dare to dream. That’s the first step to advancement. That burning desire to reach higher is the starting point for all great things.
Everyone has dreams and visions of where they would like to be in the future. Whether it’s becoming a rock star or charting a career path in information technology, a dream breathes life into a goal and focuses one’s thinking. Encouraging others to pursue their dreams will make you a source of positive energy and that makes them view you as leader. You will become someone they consistently turn to for advice and mentoring.
Converting a dream into reality doesn’t happen by itself. There’s usually a learning curve and a commitment to master the skills that any craft requires. You might have to take courses, obtain a certification, or practice a particular skill like public speaking.
The number of sources of knowledge is staggering in today’s information age. That means learning doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and it can also be finely tuned to specific needs and interests.
Reading books is my favorite source for learning these days. As a learning method, reading is inexpensive, highly portable, and can be accomplished on my timetable. I also enjoy building a library of reference material that I can turn to. Nothing can replace reading as a tool for shaping the mind. As Charles de Gaulle once said:
“Don’t ask me who has influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested,
and I’ve been reading all my life.”
I have very few regrets in my life, but one of them is that I probably read just two or three books between the time I left college at 22 and the age of 35. I can only imagine how much smarter I would be now had I read just six books per year during that time. Who knows how much more my mind would have expanded? Great leaders are committed to lifelong learning, and they encourage those around them to do the same.
Dreaming and learning are foundational steps. Action is where personal growth happens. Doing more means being able to take on progressively greater responsibilities and stretching beyond one’s own comfort zone by advancing to more complex managerial or technical assignments. If you’re not growing, you’re stagnating. That holds true for people as well as businesses.
Within a career context, failure to grow by doing more can ultimately lead to obsolescence. If you don’t grow, your value drops. Your employer might seek to replace you with someone who has more current skills, is generally more capable, and represents better economic value to the business. The best leaders challenge their subordinates to grow by inspiring them to do more.
Secure leaders know that they are only as strong as the people they lead. Teams accomplish more when each team member grows more capable. Secure leaders never worry about being eclipsed by subordinates. They are not jealous of their subordinates’ achievements. In fact, a leader’s perspective is quite the opposite. They take pride in watching their subordinates develop as they encourage everyone around them to become more.
Becoming more must also include the most important part of personal growth—spiritual growth. This is where life-changing transformation truly occurs. The best leaders never forget the essence of humanity as articulated by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
How would your opinion of others change if you decided to see everyone as a soul in a human body, versus just focusing on the body you see? Would that perspective make you a better leader? Would it make you less judgmental perhaps? For me, I believe it does.
Profound spiritual change can happen with the simplest of steps—love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Now that I think of it, you may want to put this even ahead of your dreams and see what happens.
Lead well and win!™