Work-Life Integration

What Type of Leader Are You?

When you hear the word “leader,” who comes to mind? Joan of Arc . . . George Washington . . . Harriet Tubman . . . the Dalai Lama? What about you?

When you think about the qualities that effective leaders possess, you’ll likely consider some of the following attributes: honesty, integrity, and accountability; the ability to inspire and empower others; commitment; passion; effective communication and decision-making skills; confidence; creativity; and empathy. Which of these qualities are inherently yours?

For those of you who think you don’t have what it takes to be a leader, I invite you to consider the notion that leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There are leaders like the drum major, who’s typically positioned at the head of a marching band. There are leaders who “lead from behind,” a concept popularized by Nelson Mandela. And there are leaders who lead by example.

Let me assure you that if you’re living a purposeful life that aligns with what you most value, despite the hand that life has dealt you, you’re leading by example.

Admittedly, there are times when life throws a punch that knocks us to the mat. And when—not if, but when—that happens, we might need some time and space to catch our breath and get our bearings; this can be a great opportunity to take a step back, gain some perspective, and regroup, before getting back up again. While it’s important to acknowledge the significance of what happens to us in life, it’s what we do with what happens to us in life that truly matters. Will we see ourselves as victims or victors? Will we view a challenge as something that happens to us or for us, providing us with an opportunity to learn and grow? The choice is ours to make.

There’s another type of leader that bears mentioning, and that’s the leader that resides within each and every one of us, our inner leader. You can think of your inner leader as a visionary who’s always in command, leading you toward the fullest expression of your potential. Key attributes of your inner leader include wisdom, self-compassion, certainty and clarity, and courage.

Admittedly, tapping into our inner leader can be difficult at times. With that said, there’s a simple and reliable way to access our inner leader at will; this involves: (1) standing (or sitting) tall; (2) planting your feet firmly on the floor, approximately shoulder-width apart; (3) holding your shoulders down and back; (4) placing your hands on your hips; and (5) facing forward. Sometimes referred to as the Superman—or, if you prefer, Wonder Woman—pose, studies have shown that maintaining this posture, even for a brief period of time, will do wonders for your self-confidence and overall sense of well-being. I invite you to try this, and try it often, as doing so will do you a world of good.

Bestselling author Amy Cuddy covers this topic in detail in her book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

To quote Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, “management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” Bearing this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that, whether you’re leading from the front, leading from behind, or simply leading by example, you are, no doubt, inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.