There are a million ways of defining leadership, but the one that has been the most widely accepted is influence. If an element of influence defines a leader then we all have influenced someone at one time or another in our lives. Because of our influence we all have made a difference in a spouse, a child, a friend, a boss, a team, or an employee. But one thing I’ve learned is that people who are influenced over the long term need to know you will be their northern light.
Perhaps one of the biggest detriments to someone’s long - term leadership influence is that they are on again off again. If you are the harbor light for someone and their ship is counting on you for safe passage through the rocky harbor, they risk destruction if they trust you to keep your light on and you turn it off. One of the many areas I appreciate about best selling author and leadership expert, Orrin Woodward, is that over a twenty plus year partnership and friendship, he’s always been there when I needed him. For long - term leadership to exist, in essence, you’ll need to know, “Whom can you count on?”
The number one reason for an on again off again leader is they have either not found a long – term vision that fuels their purpose or they haven’t completely bought into their purpose. Until that happens people tend to waiver back and forth. Until we find a compelling reason that defines us it’s easy to get caught up in the day – to - day challenges and distractions of life. After all, the majority of us are taught to find a job and make money so we can live a life that suits us and that existence defines us. It’s not often that people find their calling simultaneously while making money. The other reason for an on again off again leader is the lack of self - esteem throughout our society. Unlike what many think, low self esteem effects both high income earners and low income earners. Low self - esteem is tied into self worth. The faster we forget about our worthiness the less we will worry. Worrying is another trait of an on again off again leader. This happens from being insecure about our own personal outcomes. Another frequent trait of an on again off again leader is self – sabotage. Many times a person subconsciously sabotages their own success because they don’t feel worthy. Understand, that you will accept a level of responsibility when you accept a leadership role. What makes leadership so rare is just that. We tend to shy away from accepting responsibility.
The easiest way to overcome the pressure of accepting responsibility or low self -esteem can be defined with one word, service. It’s amazing what happens when we take our eyes off our selves and focus on someone else. That’s why LIFE Leadership provides education that has been proven helpful. Accepting responsibility and commitment to your mission isn’t the most politically correct thing to do in today’s world. There’s a prevailing 'what’s in it for me' world - view that has become dominant over the last fifty years. Gone for the most part are the days when you could count on your neighbor for even a cup of sugar. Today, most of us don’t even talk to our neighbor, let alone feel comfortable stopping over to spontaneously ask a favor. Leadership is initiated when we develop a relationship. No one will accept influence if they don’t trust us. People need to see your heart. There is no better way to show your heart than through service. A service first attitude is so not normal in today’s 'what’s in it for me world.' Nurturing relationships and serving are tied into developing others as you lead them.
Character is the number one quality of a leader. Character when tested over time earns trust and grows influence. An on again off again leader is constantly wavering. This effects long – term leadership because being a person of character tells others you will be there when the chips are down. Have you ever met an excited charismatic leader when they have the wind in their sales? It’s another thing to see how one reacts when conditions aren’t so favorable. It is said of people with character, that their word is their worth. This was the way it was years ago when a handshake was all that was needed for a partnership. Today, we almost need to hire an attorney to take out the garbage. A true leader understands the commitment necessary when they set out to achieve their mission because it’s tied into their purpose. Plans may change but moving off course away from the goal is not an option. With this attitude you become the northern light that so many others need. They only need to look up from the dark to know that you will be there for them.
It is said that responsibility and commitment are a few qualities that make leadership worth trusting although you’ll find it’s more rare to find people who are both responsible and committed. I’ve met more than a few people who fear being a northern light for others because of the responsibility that’s required from a leader. The sense is, “How can I be a person worthy for them to follow?” Thinking this is an indication that pride is getting in the way. Instead of serving, the thinking begins to be self - focused. Being responsible is part of being the northern light for others. It’s what makes a leader who they are. A leader can’t waiver from their commitment or to their cause. If they truly are who they say they are, (character) then they can’t be double minded to their purpose. Fear, self - centeredness, and pride are the biggest causes of failed leadership. Being an on again off again leader is why there is such a leadership void in the world today. There tends to be a prevalence of a lack of commitment. Just look at the percentage of failed marriages, longevity of relationships, or successful business partnerships.
A leader doesn’t have to be perfect, just transparent. When a leader makes a mistake, in many cases they gain even more credibility when they show that they are human. Knowing that none of us are perfect should take some of the pressure off of a leader when they take on responsibilities in business, sports, or mentoring others. People are attracted to this quality. Whenever you are around teams, sports, businesses, or churches, someone who accepts responsibility becomes a valued asset for that entity. Look at your obstacles as an opportunity to step up your game. Poise is a leadership quality that winners look for. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” There is nothing more rewarding than to be there for others when a challenge arises.
Instead of being an on again off again leader, make a decision to be the northern light for others. Be someone others can count on. You’ll get high scores in leadership for this type of action. When others are flailing in a panic of insecurity or doubt, be the one who hands out the life preservers. Everyone has insecurities. The next time a storm appears and the ship is in need of a beacon of light, accept the role that it’s you that will help them navigate the jagged edged rocks off the rocky shore. Your commitment and your poise will define your character. It’s time to stop being an on again off again leader, and turn your leadership light on once and for all. God Bless, George Guzzardo