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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Qualities of a Good Leader

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of women at the Women in Leadership conference for the Sandy Chamber of Commerce. I was both surprised and honored to be asked. However, the week before the speech, my schedule was so crammed with work, I barely had any time to give the speech a second thought. The night before, I sat down, jotted down my ideas of what makes a good leader and said a prayer for God to help me.

He did.

I have never felt so relaxed and so much a conduit for inspiration as I did that morning. God was there putting the words in my mouth. I shared experiences from my own life that I would not have thought to share. I got laughs, tears and applause. I was humbled by the power I felt was not my own. I learned that He knows how to help you if you just trust Him.

Here's some of what I told the women in attendance about the qualities of a good leader.

  1. Listen and be a good follower. Learn to be obedient to the sound advice and direction from your mentors, your parents, your peers, and even your children. Find a mentor, if you don't have one and learn from them with an open mind and heart. Leaders are willing to do the work they ask others to do. They aren't too proud to ask for help and to listen to the advice of others.
  2. Remember who you are. My parents told me this all the time as a teenager. I know they meant for me to remember I'm a child of God. I know that to be true of all of us. I also know that when we are real, we're not trying to stand out or be unique. We all have the potential for greatness and when we remember that, we act in accordance with that potential. If you're familiar with Marianne Williamson, you know the quote Nelson Mandela borrowed for his inaugural speech about shining as a child of God so others around you have permission to do the same.
  3. Be kind. Help those around you. By treating others with kindness and respect, you raise them up to their potential. Water seeks its own level — why not lift someone up when you can? Someone once said you can only be successful by helping others to be so, too. I believe that is true. Start with your family. Treat them like you treat those you've just met as an experiment and notice how much more patient, kind, open-minded and tolerant you are with them. Kindness takes work when you're tired or frustrated, but you'll never regret showing kindness at those times when it's hardest to show.
  4. Know you can' t do it all or be everything to everyone. If you're committed to setting your priorities and living  your priorities, you'll shine as a leader for others to do the same and you'll all be empowered to live a more peaceful life. This is especially important for women as they become mothers. The demands on a working mother's time are often overwhelming. I've learned from the 14 years of being a working mother to act as if you'll never get any time back — make the most of it, because you won't get your time back. Your children will grow up, your deadlines will pass by and your house will need to be re-cleaned. Don't regret the time you spend on things by deciding to spend your time on what is important at that moment.
  5. Don't take counsel from your fears. I believe Eleanor Roosevelt said that. She didn't allow her husband to shrink when he could have as a polio survivor. I had to tell myself that story when I really felt like backing out of the upcoming XTERRA triathlon. I am scared of crashing on the mountain bike — I'm a newbie to that sport and tremendously frightened of getting hurt. But, I will not be conquered by my fear. True leaders often do difficult things. Challenges may scare them, but they push through that fear and do it anyway. 
  6. Stand for something good. Make your work something you love, something that moves you. My purpose is to lift and inspire women. I hope my work continues to be just that: moving and inspiring. For me, writing and creating are conduits for good. I echo Jane Austen, "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." I choose to write about the good in other people — and there is so much of it. I strive to spread that feeling of positive potential to everyone who reads my words. Inspiring others to be the best version of themselves comes naturally to the best leaders.
  7. We are all leaders.  Whether we embrace it or not, we all have people around us that look up to us and follow us. If you're a mother, you know that to be true. The mother sets the tone of the home. Women set the tone when they're in positions of leadership — even if they're not the "boss" in a work environment. We are more gentle and nurturing and therefore have a lot of power to influence. We don't have to change ourselves to be more like one of the guys. We can embrace our natural femininity. We can know that our actions within our circle of influence set the tone for future generations. That's power. That's leadership.

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