Influential Leaders: Closer than You Think
I learned two fundamental lessons from these men. First, people will follow you if you know who you are and what you stand for–not just by what you say but by how you act. Second, they cared about me and were invested in my success.
I had occasion to hear Jim Kouzes speak recently, author (with Barry Posner), of The Leadership Challenge. If you’ve never read their work, their research reinforces many truths about leadership that we all feel in our gut and also presents some surprising conclusions that we should pay closer attention to. One conclusion that really resonated with me was that leaders who influence us most are those closest to us.
It’s perhaps not surprising that two significant influences around leadership in my life were a parent and a teacher. Notably absent are business leaders and politicians and although I have been impressed by many athletes, they don’t jump to mind as influential leaders.
My Dad is the leader who influenced me most. If you know me, you’ve heard me talk about him and write about him. If you knew him, you’d know that I look and sound like he did. I hope I also manage to emulate his character too. Dad died on his 59th birthday but he lives on in the people he managed and loved his entire life.
Mr. Goldthorpe taught me world history in ninth grade. He ranks a close second in leadership influence. He was an Englishman from Lancashire; mining and farming country where you called a spade a spade and didn’t mince words. Mr. Goldthorpe used colorful language to motivate and provoke. He once said I was acting like a “twit”, and he was right. He also challenged me to take history seriously and credited 14-year-olds with the ability to grasp the complexities of the Cold War and Realpolitik of the early seventies.
I learned two fundamental lessons from these men. First, people will follow you if you know who you are and what you stand for–not just by what you say but by how you act. Second, they cared about me and were invested in my success. From this I learned that showing empathy and a genuine interest in people is an essential leadership trait.
Who were your most influential leaders? How have they shaped you as a leader?
Kouzes and Posner provide great empirical evidence for self-knowing and other important leadership traits in their books and research. Check them out here. http://www.leadershipchallenge.com