Being a Leader

by Deborah Howard, PCC, MSOD, JD 

In his beautiful poem, The Contract, William Ayot talks about why people follow leaders:

The Contract

A word from the led

And in the end we follow them –
not because we are paid,
not because we might see some advantage,
not because of the things they have accomplished,
not even because of the dreams they dream
but simply because of who they are:
the man, the woman, the leader, the boss,
standing up there when the wave hits the rock,
passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,
knowing the currents, holding the doubts,
imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall;
captain, pirate, and parent by turns,
the bearer of our countless hopes and expectations.
We give them our trust. We give them our effort.
What we ask in return is that they stay true.

William Ayot

Leadership starts from the inside out. Great leaders are not great because they practice certain communication “techniques” or leadership “tools.” They are great because they are authentic, trustworthy, and take care of their team members.  

So, when working to enhance your leadership, think less about what you are doing and more about how you are being. Being a leader involves such things as:

  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves being aware of your own beliefs, emotions, and thoughts, and being intentional about how they impact your treatment and perception of others. Do your actions have the impact on others that you intend? Do you ask for feedback to become aware of how others perceive you? Are you aware of things that trigger you so you can respond rather than react to them? Are you aware of your own unconscious biases so you can address them?
  • Integrity: Having integrity means you walk your talk and do what you say you will do. Can others rely on your word? What do you do to earn the trust of others? Do you acknowledge your own mistakes and take responsibility for your own actions? Are your actions in alignment with your values?
  • Courage: Courage is being able to take risks in service of your values. Do you have the courage to have “difficult conversations?” Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone? Are you able to admit when you don’t know something? Do you speak up when something is not right or fair?
  • Communication: Leaders adapt their communication style to communicate across a wide range of differences (social identities, cultures, roles, etc.). Are you sensitive to and aware of different styles of communication? Do you listen and provide space for others to talk? Do you share information transparently and openly?
  • Inclusion: Inclusion is a way of being that is open to and welcomes difference. Have you created an environment in which team members feel safe enough to share and exchange ideas without fear of judgment or criticism? Do others feel able to bring their whole selves to work or do they feel the need to assimilate to one way of being?
  • Caring and Empathy: Leaders make the well-being of their team members a priority.  Do you develop and maintain strong relationships with others? Do you see your team members as whole persons with emotions and needs and take them into consideration? Do you ask questions before reaching a conclusion or do you judge first and ask questions later? Do you take the time to listen to understand others, so they feel heard and validated?

How are you being so that your team members see you as: “standing up there when the wave hits the rock, passing out faith and confidence like life jackets?”

Elevate your Leadership Potential

To learn more about building your leadership skills and executive coaching, reach out to Deborah for a consultation.