This post is by Steve Farber, president of Extreme Leadership. He is author of “The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership” and “The Radical Leap Re-Energized: Doing What You Love in the Service of People Who Love What You Do.” He will be speaking at SOBCon 2011, which will be held in Chicago from April 29 to May 1.
Whatever your line of work — accountant, lawyer, teacher, tradesperson, retailer, consultant, whatever — if you want to lead in your field, if you want to stand out, make a difference, earn an excellent reputation and succeed financially, too, then rate your approach to work against the following practices.
But what if you don’t want to be a leader? What if work is just a way for you to pay your bills and fill in time between weekends? Then use these ideas as a way to re-think your job or career, and see where it takes you — you may suddenly find your work passion ignited (or re-ignited) and — who knows — you may discover a leader in there after all:
- Cultivate a burning desire to excel in your field. Your love for your work is the juice, the raw material and, ultimately, the energy that will drive you to do great things. Without your heart, you’ll just be going through the motions. Maybe significant motions, but just motions nonetheless. Is there something about your work that you love? (If “love” is too strong a word out of the gate, I’ll accept “deeply care about”). How about the people you work with, or the customers that you serve? Answer those questions for yourself. The ideal to strive for is to spend your life doing what you love in the service of people who love what you do.
- Hone your chops. Take every opportunity you can to practice your craft, deepen your knowledge and broaden your experience. You know the drill: Read, attend seminars, talk to and spend time with the experts. We all know we’re supposed to do those things, but few of us do.
- Develop your own point of view. After you’ve had a good amount of experience, and you’ve learned what the experts in your field have to say, start to ask yourself this very powerful question: “What do I think about all this?” or “If I could flip a magic switch and make everything in my field/company/team different, what would I change?” The more energy and time you put into Step Two, the more powerful, informed and credible your perspective will be — and that perspective will serve as the foundation for your ability to inspire others to help you change things for the better.
- Build your body of work (BOW). We normally think of artists as having a bodies of work, but it’s true for all of us. Every tangible bit of work you do relating to your field becomes part of your BOW: your experience, articles (and/or books) you’ve written, your digital footprint, speeches you’ve given and panels you’ve participated in, projects you’ve led or contributed to, results you achieved (or helped achieve) at your company, even the relationships you’ve developed and nurtured. All of it.
Your BOW is the physical, tangible, outward manifestation of who you are and the effect you’ve had. Your point of view, your perspective, your voice is the common thread. That’s what makes your BOW unique. Consciously create your BOW and expand it throughout your career. Amplify and broadcast it. Share it with as many people as possible. And if it happens that your BOW is compelling, inspiring and useful to others, it will not only set you apart, but it will create the need — the pull — for your services as a professional. That’s when you’ll know you’ve become a leader.