Does Leadership Really Boil Down to This?

What if you could narrow down the secret to becoming a highly influential and effective leader to “one thing”?  Is it really possible?  Think how many less books would be written if great leadership were a result of “one thing”.  So in my work, especially the past few years I have been watching and listening to leaders differently and asking myself … “What if all these folks had one thing in common, one thing that drives everything else they do, one way of being that exudes confidence and congruity?” Hmm…

Well I am getting very close to understanding that, in fact, it really does come down to one thing. And here it is:

“Personal Belief in….”

Great leaders who I’ve witnessed personally, or those I’ve interviewed or researched, all share this one common attribute:

When they are confronted by a challenge and they bring forward a solution they have an unshakable personal belief it will work.

When they are engaging their people in their vision or strategy, they convey with 100% congruence their personal belief in its merit.

When questioned relentlessly by the press or analysts on their company’s current or future performance, they communicate in clear and compelling terms their confidence in their strategy, or products, or people…and people back off only because … their personal belief was palatable.

Some authors have referred to this as “principle-centered” and to some degree this “one thing” relates.  But this one thing I am referring to is more than that.  It is a situational choice leaders have to make (and in fact do make, whether they are aware of it or not).

How many times have you walked out of a meeting reflecting on what a leader just conveyed and said to yourself, “This will never fly!”  I’ve attended hundreds of sales conferences, leadership summits, etc. and I spend a lot of time in the hallway listening in on what people REALLY think, and most times, it is not laced with confidence in the leader who just spoke.  Why not?  The One Thingwas not evident.

I now situationally coach leaders.  I continuously challenge their personal belief systems. How?

Ask them why they believe this imperative is important. In the first 20 seconds of their response, you will know if their personal belief is congruent with the task at hand. Pay attention to tonality, physiology and mostly, pay attention to your own reaction.

I call it a “gut check” and you can’t fake it.  People today are so tuned in and attentive because the business environment is so fragile.  They are looking for certainty in times of unprecedented change.  They are looking for confidence where so little exists.  People are more likely to go the extra mile, ask the tougher questions, risk a little more and generally take their game to the next level, IF they believe their leader has a personal belief in them and the mission at large.

It is my intent to create a compelling case for this premise, that great leaders do, in fact, source all their energy, wisdom, courage, competence and ultimately their impact from their personal beliefs, situation-by-situation, moment-by-moment, and outcome-by-outcome.