I was recently asked how I define leadership. As I contemplated that answer, I pictured the leaders I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded with in life. Sports coaches, parents, teachers, community leaders, mentors, volunteers, friends, fellow board members, fellow entrepreneurs, CEOs, executives. I’m a board member for the Girl Scouts and I get to spend time with hundreds of girls and young women practicing leadership every day.
So, let’s dive in. How do I define leadership?
- Leadership is stepping up first or being a fast follower. I learned the concept of going first from Simon Sinek when he keynoted the ATD International Conference a few years back. His message was so simple, but it described leaders perfectly. Leaders are willing to go first, even when the risk is high, or the stakes are high. There’s something they believe in, or something that calls them, to step up first. I’m thinking of a CEO who has a huge vision for her non-profit. She’s pursuing a goal that will put this organization’s work on the map. But nothing like it has been done in her community and it will require major fundraising and support. She’s going first. She’s also going to need fast followers – those who buy into her vision right away and are willing to step up beside her to make this vision happen.
- Leadership is intentional. I keep a daily journal, and one of the questions is, “What is your intention for today?” And while the intention may look a little different each day, what underlies it is a choice to show up in a certain way. I try to revisit what I’ve written as I go about the day, checking in with myself to see how I’m doing with that intention. You might set a leadership intention for your day, before a sales call, a big meeting, or a tough conversation. When I choose to set an intention, something clicks into my awareness. I feel more connected. I’m more aware of my words, my tone of voice. I’m better at being empathetic and trying to understand the other person’s perspective. All things that leaders do.
- Leadership is blind. I’m still always struck by how easy it is to put a label on who we think leaders are and what leadership should look like. Lots of shoulds. But leadership doesn’t see any of that. It doesn’t see your age, your generation, your socio-economic status, your gender, or your ethnicity. It doesn’t know your outward appearance, your job title, years of experience, or accomplishments.These are all labels that we put on leadership. And these labels are limitations. I’m at my best as a leader when I take away the labels from myself or others. I see fewer limitations and way more possibility. Possibility is a big part of what leadership is about! Because leadership is blind, it’s why we need more diversity in all of our leadership conversations – whether that’s physical diversity, thought diversity, or diversity of experience. It all matters if we’re going to move the needle on our most pressing leadership challenges.
I can help your team’s leaders elevate to the next level. Check out my Leaders of Impact and Influence keynote for your next event, or consider more intensive leadership development training to build engaged, inspired and effective next-gen leaders.
Amy Franko is a sales leader turned entrepreneur, sales keynote speaker, and author. She’s passionate about two things professionally: sales and leadership. She works with insurance organizations and professional services firms to improve sales results and build future sales leaders. Learn more about Amy’s book, The Modern Seller, and download a free chapter.