What is the fundamental characteristic of a leader?

What makes a person into a leader?

Charisma? No.

Communication? No.

Experience? No.

They deserve a promotion because of past efforts? No.

What ideas do you have?

There is one characteristic without which you cannot be called a leader.

Followers? Yes…  but what do you need to have as a leader so that others actually follow?

The Fundamental Characteristic of a Leader

A Destination.

You know where you are going.

…and then the power to Communicate

…and then you need to develop the ability to engage with people so that the destination becomes a shared destination.  

If you can begin to paint the destination in the minds of others with stories you begin to engage not just their hands, not just their skills, but their whole self in the committed pursuit.

A Shared Vision of a Worthwhile Destination

How do you engage those around you to commit to the journey?

Don’t “motivate” people.  

Figure out something that is worth doing.  Figure out how it will make your life better, how it will make their lives better and how it will make society better. 

Help others understand that being part of it will be better for them and their life.

How do you share this destination with others?  How’s this as a script:

  • Let us move forward: This is a good use of our time…
  • Here is what is in it for me…
  • Here is what is in it for you…

Business as an Infinite game

Simon Sinek shares a powerful concept in his book “The Infinite Game”.  He has popularised the distinction between Finite games and Infinite games. 

Chess is a finite game.  Soccer is a finite game.  Tennis is a finite game.  They each have a set of agreed rules, and a clear victory condition at which time the game ends.  The objective in a finite game is to end the game as victor.

Business is not a finite game.  Life is not a finite game.  Leading human beings is not a finite game.  

Success in life is keeping it engaging to play for all those involved (including yourself!). 

A game everyone plays voluntarily is more successful than a game where some must be compelled to play.

If you are going to set up an organisation, you can compel people to perform with threats and fear.  It is much more effective to engage them to play a game that is meaningful for them, and for you… and for society as a whole.

How to lead the whole Person

Imagine these two requests from a leader:

  1. “Go home and take 4 hours to think about how you will contribute to this organisation over the next year” or
  2. “Go home and take 4 hours to think about your life and formulate a plan for your life with this business being a part of the plan”

Which is the question of the bigger leader?

Jordan Peterson reports a 10% increase in contribution where leaders ask the 2nd question to their teams. 

You want yourself and your team to see that working for you serves their higher order purpose.  

If not, this is not the job for them.  Help them find a place where they can serve their higher purpose.

If you liked this post, you will also like Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life and What is Leadership?

This post was inspired by Jordan Peterson in this Bigthink video: