Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It’s a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment. Thomas Carlyle
Just as athletes are not born with strong muscles and strong lungs that lead them to greatness, leadership is not something you are born with. You grow into leadership with experience, and we build them up with practice, discipline, and belief in our ability to go further than we thought we could.
Think about how you flex your management muscles. You are constantly pushing your team members to make sure everyone is focused on the right direction. You do your best to beat your deadlines, and perhaps go further than you thought possible.
But being a great manager is not being a great leader. To develop your leadership muscles, you need to tap into the core strength of who you are, what you stand for, and build trust and loyalty among your followers to support you when you feel your strength may not be up to the task at hand.
As a leader you will confront more obstacles than you thought possible as you try to implement new processes or create new ways of thinking about problems. In fact, you will notice that resistance is built into the structure of any organization and your job is to help others see bigger possibilities and move beyond their limitations.
To build momentum in any organization means you need a bold vision, and you need to make it compelling so you can inspire those around you.
As a manager your job is to keep the ship on course and sail the prescribed route. As a leader your job is to create a new route and help guide people to the place you want them to go.
In the process you will fail, and you will rise, just like the storms at sea.
You will change course, and you will seek support from those you depend on to fulfill the vision by enlisting their help in creating the kind of environment where care and compassion for each other becomes a vital part of the journey.
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.“–Vince Lombardi
I studied martial arts for fifteen years and earned a black belt in Shotokan karate, and I became a Crossfit athlete when most people my age are thinking of retirement. This training has been tremendously helpful in understanding leadership, and why it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses in individuals.
Leadership takes strength, coordination, and control. You must be willing to take risks, build relationships, show courage, and create growth opportunities for your team and yourself through consistent actions, good communication, and strong emotional intelligence. I call this developing leadership muscles.
It takes time to build your leadership muscles. Long hard hours of commitment to excellence and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. A willingness to confront your weaknesses, and determination to build strength in areas that are not a natural fit for you.
The challenge of leadership must be met with six elements to guarantee success.
- COMMITMENT. Are you taking your role seriously? Are you fully engaged, and prepared to do whatever it takes to become a leader that will garner respect from your team? Do they know they can trust you to do what you say you will do? And are you committed to helping them grow and develop? When you are committed to an action you show respect for the process and for the roles others will play in it.
- FOCUS. Do you take right actions, in the right way, over the right amount of time? Do you communicate that clearly to your team members? Many times focus is in the wrong direction, or the wrong actions, and there is a tendency to wander in many directions at the same time. It creates confusion and uncertainty which leads to lack of trust. Focus is where the rubber meets the road and it will take you where you want to go.
- DISCIPLINE. It takes a strong leader to be willing to do what others may not have the ability to do. Thousands of hours of doing things you would prefer not to do, but you do them anyway because it benefits the team’s performance and your own fulfillment. Discipline is a willingness to learn the hard things. Developing greater self-awareness means observing your behaviors and seeing which ones serve your highest purpose, and which ones are barriers to your success, and by association, the success of others.
- FOLLOW-THROUGH. This is one of the elements that can be hard. Do you follow-through on things you say you will do, or ask others to do? Do you hold yourself and your people accountable for the results you want, or do you let things slide? Do you sometimes think no one will notice if you don’t do something that needs your attention but is inconvenient or uncomfortable to address in the moment? Follow-through is following up and making sure you are still on track.
- CONSISTENCY. This is probably the most important of all the elements to generate success in any enterprise. It’s saying what you will do, and doing it, consistently. It’s the core strength of leadership muscles. Without consistency you will continue to have aching muscles because they are not being used correctly. Lack of consistency means people are unsure what to expect and in turn, they will doubt your intentions and thus, distrust your intentions. Consistency builds trust.
- PERSEVERANCE is the most advantageous of all the leadership muscles to develop. It helps you overcome failures and strengthens your ability to rise again when you may be tempted to give up. Perseverance leads to resilience, and correlates strongly to success. We have all had times when we want to give up lifting the heavy weights, but with determination and grit, you pull one more time and rise to the occasion.
When building your leadership muscles, it helps to have a plan, and to get the support you need to learn and become a strong leader. We don’t know what we don’t know, and many times it’s helpful to have someone hold up the mirror and give some input to increase the awareness and understanding you need to lead the way forward. It can be a mentor or a coach who understands the journey and can help you develop your path to success.
As a strong leader who leads with compassion and understanding, your team will follow you knowing you care about them. In turn, you teach them what they need to know to become strong in their own domains and build future leaders who can catapult the organization’s performance and revenue stream. After all, that’s why we are in business, and it’s only as good as the people who are running it!
With strong leadership muscles and clear goals there is nothing you can’t achieve if you want to build successful relationships, develop unbreakable trust with your team and organization, and create great outcomes that will leave a legacy for future leaders.