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What makes a leader?

During a recent discussion with a respected supply chain colleague the topic of leadership turned into a very stimulating debate.

The question on the table was:  Can you be considered a leader if you have no followers?

During our most enjoyable exchange I spoke from the heart: Absolutely, I said.  Leaders are born, it is an innate quality that makes you follow your own path, draw your own conclusions and question/challenge the status quo.

Often times, leaders stand alone, chastised and ridiculed for not following the pack; for daring to have their own voice, unwilling to compromise when they believe in their core that a particular issue contradicts their knowledge of what is right.  That is not to say there is no room for finding alternatives or win/win propositions when representing others’ interest, but there is a lot to be said for self leadership independent of others.

The argument that followed was that perhaps those are not leaders per se but visionaries.

Tomatoe – Tomato, I say. Leaders, visionaries, pioneers, call them what you will, are cut from the same cloth.  They are all versions of the same inner drive that propels you forward and does not allow you to bow to mediocrity.

Why is this relevant? Because we have entered a new economic reality where old constructs of what it took to get ahead may no longer apply.  The rules of the game (corporate and entrepreneurial ) have been re-drawn.  No longer is someone mapping your career; no longer are the boundaries of competition clearly drawn.

How are some businesses and professionals thriving during the worst recession and slowest economic recovery in recent history ? For some it may be through sheer luck, for others it has to do with being smart enough to surround themselves with competent support teams. But for the majority of truly successful leaders it is skill and strategy, character, grit and determination.  All traits that stand independent of followers.

What are some of the core competencies of a leader?

  • Self Concept:  Successful leaders have a positive self-evaluation, including high self-esteem, self-efficacy and internal locus of control.  (Locus of Control: A person’s general belief about the amount of control he or she has over personal life events)
  • Drive: Successful leaders have a high need for achievement.  There is an inner motivation to pursue their goals and encourage others to move forward with theirs.
  • Integrity:  Referring to truthfulness and consistency of words and actions.
  • Leadership Motivation: Effective leaders are motivated to lead others, push concepts and boundaries.
  • Knowledge of the business:  Effective leaders possess tacit and explicit knowledge of the business environment in which they operate.
  • Cognitive and practical intelligence: Leaders have above-average cognitive ability to process enormous amounts of information.  They aren’t necessarily geniuses but have a superior ability to analyze a variety of complex alternatives and opportunities.
  • Emotional Intelligence:  The ability to monitor their own emotions and use the information to guide their thoughts and actions.

Not all leaders possess all the core qualities nor are these the only qualities that matter.  Leaders are always a work in progress often times holding themselves to the highest standards and being extremely tough on themselves.

In order to own your destiny you must be a leader.  Even without titles or with limited authority, even when underappreciated or underutilized by the organizational structure.  You have all the power in the world to lead the person that matters the most: Yourself.  If you do not lead yourself others will lead you and take charge of your destiny, your opportunities, your time table, and ultimately your life.

“What the society thinks is of no interest to me. All that’s important is how I see myself.  I know who I am. I know the value of my work.” .Robin S. Sharma, The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in business and in life.

Carolina Billings

Carolina Billings

Carolina M. Billings is an executive with 15+ year’s leadership experience in the fields of Business Development, Human Resources and Finance. As CFO-CHRO of a multi-million business conglomerate, she performs a truly interdisciplinary role within a portfolio of diverse industries ranging from Supply Chain, Logistics & Distribution, Wealth Management, Furniture Import, Sales & Distribution as well as Interior Design. She champions leadership initiatives as well as empowering and coaching/mentoring others to lead. Developing a hybrid of Finance and Human Resources has enable her to become leading business partner. Her great ability to influence and engage others in the pursuit of goals and objectives makes her a true innovator and change agent. Carolina is currently pursuing her Masters in Interdisciplinary studies with Royal Roads University, She holds Graduate Certificates from Cornell University and Queen’s University in the fields of Change Management and Leadership. She is a Co-Active Professional coach currently doing her practicum towards Certification with ICF. She holds a CHRL designation and a High Honor’s HRM Graduate Certificate. Carolina is the founder of Big Fish Coaching a private practice specializing in personal leadership, career coaching, conflict resolutions and life change management.
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