“In between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” - Viktor Frankl -
The most valuable qualities in leadership, those that separate good leaders from great leaders, are the most human of all qualities, and are the softest, most intangible of qualities. Great leaders must have all the skills of an entrepreneur, and in addition, must have deep, deep love and care for the people they lead. These qualities can’t be acquired through quick and dirty tips and tricks on how to do more and work less. Tips and tricks will get you better organization, more time in your day, clearer directives, better structures. These are traditional workplace skills, and are important. But the deepening of soft skills takes something else. It takes acquiring new distinctions, self-assessment and reflection, practice, self-correction, and then more practice. It is an ongoing process of learning, applying, choosing, practicing, choosing again, correcting, and choosing yet again. Gaining soft skills is not about learning the right words, or incorporating good tips, it is about learning to be an entirely different kind of human being, a different kind of leader. In developing yourself to be an extraordinary leader, you have to be willing to look at yourself deeply. You must know who you are; not just the usual strengths and weaknesses, but deeper down, what your habitual ways of thinking are, what your habitual moods are, and where and when you stop yourself. It is being able to see the cultural, historical, familial and experiential drift you are in and breaking free from it so that true choice is an option. The drift is largely invisible to most. Great leadership is being able to freely and powerfully express your authentic self and your authentic passions and beliefs to those you lead. It is here where your best self is present when the going is easy, and for your best, most extraordinary self and more to remain present and in the forefront in treacherous times.
Great leadership occurs within conversation. It is what you say to yourself and to others that creates your present and future. Without a deep understanding of the generative nature of conversation – all conversation – extraordinary leadership cannot occur. It is in the story-telling, the creation and sustaining of your business culture, in the meta-conversation and in the smaller bits and pieces of everyday conversation that great leadership is generated; it is in the consciousness that each word has created your present world, and will create your future.