Great Leaders Take RISKs…

I recently spoke to a leadership class of 60 students at Warren Mott High School about leadership. I shared with them my experiences both as a leader in a formal position with a team that reported to me and as a leader utilizing only influence with no formal authority as a coach and consultant. I told them about my experiences of having both great and poor leaders throughout my career and the impact they had on me. I gave also them an acronym that I believe are keys to being a successful and effective leader – taking a RISK:

  • R – Role Model – Great leaders are great role models – they exhibit the very behaviors they expect of others. Leaders are constantly being watched and held to a higher standard. People believe what leaders do, not what they say.
  • I – Interest in others – Great leaders genuinely care about other people, especially their employees – their most important stakeholders. They truly care about helping others grow and become more successful.
  • S – Stuff that scares them – Great leaders do things that scare them. They don’t let fear stop them from taking action. The very definition of courage is doing something in spite of fear.
  • K – Knowledge – Great leaders continue to add to their knowledge base. They never stop learning and growing. They continually learn and do new things.

I expressed to these students that the best leaders I have encountered in my career had all of these qualities, and I believe that’s what made them so successful and influential. As a coach and consultant, I feel a huge sense of responsibility to practice what I teach and do my best to demonstrate these behaviors in order to have credibility, to improve myself as a leader, and to better serve my clients. Am I perfect at doing these things? Of course not. Do I mess up and make mistakes? Absolutely – all I can do is my very best. I share with my clients what I have put into practice as well as my successes and shortcomings – both are valuable learning.

Lastly, I conveyed to these students that we can all be leaders even if we don’t have a formal appointed position. We can lead from wherever we are in our schools, our families, our communities, and our jobs by modeling leadership behaviors and influencing people to follow us. I left them with these two closing questions: “What kind of leader would others say you are?  And what kind of leader will you choose to be?”

“You don’t need a title to be a leader.” – Multiple Attributions

 “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Kenneth Blanchard

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

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