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Being a Leadership Thought Leader

by Solarzar Dellaporta

Thought leadership is an expression of ideas that demonstrate you have expertise in a particular field, area, or topic.

When it comes to leadership there are many who consider themselves thought leaders. Exactly what does it take to be a Thought Leader?

Leadership cannot be defined by a set of traits or characteristics, yet so many still seem driven to make that their definition of leadership.

While I believe there are traits we can work on to be better leaders, Leadership is being the best of ourselves in each situation. Traits may help us be the best of ourselves, they don’t make us a leader.

Leaders are not expected to know everything. In a team environment everyone has a right to voice an opinion; however, when someone without knowledge or experience offers an ‘opinion’ it does not carry the same weight as an ‘informed opinion’.

A leader has to be clear on the objective of an activity or task. I remember advising a ‘leader’ that a decision that was made did not support the objectives intended for the activity in question. His response was, “That’s what the people wanted.”

If people are making decisions they need to know the full impact of their ‘opinion’. If what the people ‘want’ does not support the objectives of the activity it is important that it is discussed, pointed out, and if not resolved, then at least tabled for discussion later.

Leadership is muddied by the belief that certain actions, certain traits are what define a leader. Since the year 2000 I have been sharing in my Leadership presentations the Gifts of the Spirit shared by Stan Cottrell[1] as the gifts we all carry inside ourselves.

The Gifts of Spirit Stan Cottrell shared are: Reverence, Respect, Kindness, Gentleness, Patience, Humility, Sincerity, and Integrity.

Reverence and Respect start with reverence and respect for ourselves. Are we honoring who we are? Once we can revere and respect ourselves we can offer those gifts to others.

Kindness and Gentleness are another pair that support each other. We start by learning to be kind to ourselves then blinder and kinder to others. Kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life.

And Gentleness is like Kindness, how often do we forget to be gentle to ourselves. In Max Ehrmann’s poem Desiderata it says, “Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself.” Be gentle with yourself.

Be gentle and kind to others.

Then there is Patience. Ralph Waldo Emerson told us to “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” Farmers know they cannot sow and reap in the same day. Patience is the ability to count down before blasting off. Patience with ourselves, then others.

Next is the elusive quality of Humility. Humility is a strange thing; the minute we believe we have it, we've lost it. I’ve seen many citing their practice of humility, but I have not often seen them practicing it.

Humility allows us to accept ourselves where we are. We can only learn at the rate we can learn, we can only do at the pace we can do. Humility also allows us to accept others where they are at that moment.

Our next gift is Sincerity which means being ourselves in any direction. Sincerity is the face of our soul and we are the one who knows if we are being sincere or not.

Our foundational gift is Integrity. Integrity is being true to our beliefs and principles, but not at the expense of another. Integrity is what Shakespeare told us in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true”, and therefore, “Thou cannot then be false to any man.”

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. When we operate from ego we attempt to lead for ourselves. When we lead from integrity we are leading to do what is appropriate for the person and the situation.

The other truths cannot rest as firm if we don’t create our foundation with integrity.

Reverence, Respect, Kindness, Gentleness, Patience, Humility, Sincerity, Integrity are the Gifts of the Spirit. They are qualities we all have within us. Developing these eight Gifts of the Spirit is how we express who we are and who we want to be.

· Leadership is a process.

· Leadership is an evolution of spirit.

· Leadership is a journey of self.

· Leadership is an expression of who we truly are.

Max De Pree, the founder of Herman Miller and the Fuller-De Pree Center for Leadership told us: “Leadership is good work because leaders feel a strong need to express their potential and because they wish to serve the needs of others.”

As we journey to be the best of who we are we recognize that leadership is not about traits, techniques, characteristics, a title, a position, a corner office or a reserved parking space.

Leadership is the Art of Service. Service to others. Use your strength to lift others up.

A Thought Leader serves others, offering service through Integrity.

Leadership is about giving without expecting.

Be a Thought Leader, not a Thought Follower.

[1] Stan Cottrell, “…to run and not be weary”, New Jersey, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985.

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