On my blog last Wednesday, I looked at seemingly ordinary people who had become good or great leaders despite limitations of intellect or circumstances. Here is how I introduced that blog:
I recently compiled a list of good leaders (a few I would characterize as great leaders) who, by most definitions, are common, ordinary people. They were at the middle of their classes in grades. They really did not and do not have charismatic personalities. They had no family or demographic advantages. And none of them, to my knowledge, were outstanding in extracurricular activities.
But now they are doing very well. It’s as if a switch turned at some point in their lives. They decided that they would no longer be addicted to mediocrity. Instead, they decided they would make a difference. Yet they had few of the innate gifts associated with good or great leaders.
So I wrote down a list of more than twenty characteristics of these men and women. And, somewhat to my surprise, I noted that all them had ten characteristics in common. Though statisticians would argue that I found correlative factors, I really believe that most, if not all, of these characteristics are causative.
These leaders thus had ten common characteristics. The earlier blog post looked at the first five of them. This blog post looks at the last five characteristics of these leaders.
- They have genuine humility. These leaders have learned humility the hard way. Growing up, they were well behind their peers academically. Most did not excel at sports or other extracurricular activities. None of them were nominated as “most likely to succeed.” In their early days in the workforce, they found themselves surrounded by more talented and smarter workers. They didn’t have to work at humility; it was thrust upon them.
- They seek mentors. Their desire to improve, along with their humility, led them to seek mentors. Most of these mentoring relationships were informal, but they still were intentionally sought. These leaders were unashamed to admit they needed help from an outside perspective, or advice from someone who might be smarter.
- They avoid ruts. These leaders would be the first to volunteer for an assignment in a new area. They intentionally avoided getting too comfortable in one area. As they broadened their horizons, they became more effective leaders.
- They have a sense of humor. These overachieving leaders always take their work seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Their humor helps them to avoid stressing out when everything does not go their way. They are thus able to handle difficult situations with calm and poise. Others follow their example, and thus give credence to this happy and placid leadership style.
- They are goal setters. At some point, I would love to see a major leadership study done on goal setting. It seems to be directly correlated to strong leadership. These “common” men and women were no different. To the person, you could ask them what their goals have been in life, and what they are now, and receive a quick and cogent answer. They would readily admit they didn’t always achieve their goals. But that was not deemed as failure. The common leaders simply reset their lives with a new set of goals.
There are countless men and women who are wonderful leaders. Among them are a large number who are not the smartest, not the most educated, not the most articulate, and not the most charismatic. That reality should give many of us great hope. We can be good leaders anyway.