What makes a great leader?

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I was asked this question today and it is a very hard question to answer, and since there is written mountains of books about this topic, this question is not easily answered in a talk by the coffee machine. So what makes a great leader? Do you have to be a well educated management master? Do you need to be a political superhero? Does your leadership need to change the world? No, I do not think so, but I believe that leadership is all about touching the souls of people around you. I want to share with you the essence of answer today.

So what does it take?
First of all I believe that you need to inspire and motivate, this might be the most important ability you need to posses. Inspired and motivated people can make anything happen.
But inspiration and motivation won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have a direction. A leadership vision is a must. Where do you want to go? Can you get everybody around you to go there? What does it take to get there? And what kind of behavior is necessary to get there? What are you willing to do to get there? If you know, your leadership will be more authentic.

Defining your values is like putting a compass on your map. If you are faced with a crossroad, clear values will guide you to the right direction. Honesty, Trust, Ambition, Creativity, Humor, Knowledge, Friendship, Fun, Joy and Greed are all values. What is your drive against your goal? Why do you want to lead and what values do you want to represent?

Knowledge is a key that is left out in the rain all too often. I have met a lot of leaders during my 20 years of working, and only a few read books about leadership. This is the thing that puzzles me the most. Why do such a few leaders read about leadership? Being a leader, is like being an athlete, you won’t get good unless you practice. If you do not practice and learn you will never become great, read and try, fail and do over. Dare to be different and dare to challenge yourself. By getting new inputs and by trying it out in life, you will keep on developing and evolving as a leader. You might be good, you might be great, and you might even have days that feel like you just won the Olympics. Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals in the Beijing Olympics 2008. Do you think he settled with being able to swim 100 meters? You might not become a leader of great heights. But as a leader you have an obligation to the ones you lead, to keep practicing, becoming better and evolving, because it might be you who make or break their career, there is people depending on you to step it up, anybody can swim 100 meters with little or less practice, in the other end there is Michael Phelps, you might not win an Olympic gold medal, but you will find gold if you practice.
I want to challenge you to read a book today, please do share with me, what book, and how it influenced your leadership style!

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