Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power or authority, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.
I believe leadership is more than influence. It definitely includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. I call these…
“The (Five I’s) of Authentic Leadership”
Authentic Leaders Have Insight: Sometimes we refer to this as vision, but that usually has exclusive reference to the future. While leaders must have vision, they need more. They need wisdom and discernment. They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action.
Authentic Leaders Demonstrate Initiative: They go first. They don’t sit on the sidelines. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. Instead, they lead by example.
Authentic Leaders Exert Influence: It’s no coincidence that influence and influenza (the flu) come from the same root word. Real leaders are contagious. People “catch” what they have. Yes, a lot more is caught than taught. People are drawn to their vision and their values. They are able to gather a following and move people to act. They are like human wave pools, creating a ripple effect wherever they go.
Authentic Leaders Have Impact: At the end of the day, leaders make a difference. The world, teams, and organizations are changed because of their leadership. They are able to create real and lasting change. Unless something has shifted, they aren’t leaders. They are only entertainers and occupy a role. There is a big difference. The measure of leadership cannot be found in the leader; it is found in the impact the leader has on their followers.
Authentic Leaders Exercise Integrity: Not every leader is benevolent. Adolf Hitler was a leader, as was Josef Stalin. They had insight, initiative, influence, and impact. However their lives were NOT integrated with the highest values. Integrity – or the lack thereof – ultimately determines the quality of a person’s impact. In a sense, this is the foundation of authentic leadership. Compromise your integrity and it will have a profound impact on your ability to lead others. Don’t do it!
Leaders must be deliberate and intentional if they are to be successful. I trust that these five qualities can guide you and I as we grow in our ability to lead in our roles as coaches or scouts.
Remember, It’s always about progress and never about perfection when it comes to our leadership growth and development. We are all a work in progress. Be your best this week!
Do any of these attributes mark your leadership? Where can you improve?