“How can I help?” ... Ever since the launch of the new hit series New Amsterdam, I have found myself repeating this phrase several times a day both in my work and at home. In fact, my wife has kindly hinted more than once that she would prefer me to stop saying it ... but I can’t help it. These four words are the most powerful words any leader can ask, as a spouse, parent, or CEO because they convey a very important message ... I am here, I am accessible, and you are important to me.
“Great Leaders are Accessible.”
Equally important is what happens next ... Listening. Perhaps this is where we often fail the most as leaders. We live in such a busy time and distracting age that it has become a challenge to be fully present in the moment and process what we are hearing. We tend to listen to respond, when we should be listening to hear. The self-discipline of listening is what sets effective leaders apart, because it leads them to ask great questions. Asking great questions is what makes leaders impactful.
“Great Leaders are Listeners.”
What makes a great question a great question? One that challenges us. Most people are motivated by being challenged, it is why we enjoy games, sports, and great stories. It’s the challenge within each of those, rising to it, and overcoming it, that makes them great. Games that don’t challenge us are boring, and stories that don’t present a challenge are uninspiring. Boredom and lack of inspiration lead to inaction. It is an indisputable fact that for individuals to take action they need to be challenged, by themselves or by others who believe in their potential. The soundtracks of pivotal moments of our lives often echo great inspiring scenes from timeless movies. Imagine being on the hillside in Braveheart as Mel Gibson shouts “Freedom!”, or huddled around Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society as he whispers “Carpe Diem.” Whether shouting or whispering, a challenging call to action is inspiring and moves us.
A word of caution, there is a difference between being challenging and being critical. Being challenging without permission can be perceived as criticism, which then makes the leader less accessible, and ultimately not effective or impactful.
“Great Leaders are Challenging.”
Finally, that challenge has to challenge the status quo. It must be a call do something or become something different, and their must be a purpose worthy of the effort. It has to lead us to a place other than where we currently are. This is perhaps the most over looked quality of leadership because purpose comes across as a soft word, and leadership does not. Purpose is not fluff, it is foundational. Any great endeavor that has been accomplished started with a purpose, and every great leader that accomplished it kept that purpose at the forefront of their words and actions, they never lost sight of it. Purpose is not soft, it is bold and possibly the most challenging question each of us is faced with. What is our purpose as individuals? As organizations? As Leaders?
“Great Leaders lead with Purpose.”
It has often been said that leadership is simply the ability to influence. There is good influence and there is poor influence, there are good leaders and there are poor leaders.
Good leaders are often accessible and are good listeners, but shy away from being challenging.
Poor leaders are often challenging, but lack listening and accessibility.
Great leaders are both challenging and accessible, they listen, and they lead with purpose.
Written By: Davin Salvagno