I was standing in line today, and my brain began to wander, as it does in idle moments. I found myself bemused with this not quite literal question:
How do great leaders stand?
The first answer that came to mind: great leaders certainly don’t stand around. Leaders are doers, never complacent.
The more I thought, it occurred to me that great leaders actually stand differently than most folks, in at least five ways. Here’s what came up for me…
First, great leaders stand for something important. They are passionate about what they want to create, what they see in the future. They become monomaniacs. Their names become almost synonymous with their vision. Think Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln. Everyone knows what they stand for.
Second, great leaders stand up to be counted. They thrive on challenges; they take risks; they make opportunities out of what most others avoid. They “boldly go where no one has gone before,” and take us with them. They seize the day. While they build consensus over time, they really don’t lead from consensus. They act, and others follow.
Third, great leaders stand out as unique, one-of-a-kind individuals. They aren’t carbon copies of anyone else. From Colonel Sanders to Steve Jobs to General Patton, they are different.
Fourth, great leaders stand on principles. They walk their talk. They are committed to deeply held values and their behavior is so consistent with those values that to be with them is to begin believing in those values yourself.
Fifth, great leaders stand with their people. They work for their team, not the other way around. They remove obstacles, provide coaching, get resources, and see the best in their people. They take the blame when things don’t go as hoped, and they share the glory with the people who surround them when they’re successful.
So there I was, deep in thought, when the line finally began to move. And now, if you’re that guy behind me that gave me that quizzical look, you know what I was thinking about!