One of the main differences between the very best leaders and the others is their level of clarity. Effective leaders are clear about a lot of things, including who they are and what they represent. This helps them spend their time and energy in beneficial ways, and they come across as compelling and congruent to their followers.
Leaders will naturally gain clarity on some things over time through those “aha moments” that hit us all when we least expect it. However, true clarity won’t come in this manner. The depth of clarity leaders need calls for reflection and soul searching of the deep and deliberate kind.
Based on my experience working with and coaching leaders I have found the following 7 questions very useful for helping leaders find clarity:
1) Why do I choose to lead?
This question is the first one leaders need to ask. Leadership requires effort and conviction, and there are sure to be difficult days, so it’s important to be clear about your motivation for leading. If you are clear about why you are a leader you will be able to keep going regardless of the inevitable headwinds.
2) What do I stand for as a leader?
When leaders don’t know what they stand for, there’s no chance that the people around them will be able to work this out. In comparison, leaders who are clear on what they are about, including their personal values, will convey the kind of strength and integrity that inspires others to follow.
3) What are my leadership superpowers?
Many of us are acutely aware of our weaknesses, but how many of us keep our strengths in front of mind? Superman was clear that he was faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. If you’re a leader, it’s important that you are clear about your leadership superpowers, and that you find appropriate ways to put these to use.
4) What do I need to let go of?
All of us have things of our own making that are holding us back. Many leaders have habits that hinder progress and/or beliefs that don’t serve them well. Leaders need to identify these things, let go of them and replace them with habits and beliefs that are more constructive.
5) What mindset will I bring to my work?
Leaders who hold a negative mindset about their work will lack energy and enthusiasm, and success will be constrained for them and also their teams. On the other hand, leaders who frame their work in positive terms will most likely achieve significant personal and professional results. No matter how difficult the role, a clear, positive mindset is vital for leaders.
6) What will I do to look after myself?
As I’ve written in another article, it’s all too easy for leaders in organisations to drown under the volume and complexity of the work. If you’re busy trying to save yourself from drowning, it’s impossible to lead. For this reason, leaders need to be deliberate about what they will put in place to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally.
7) How will I continue to learn?
John F. Kennedy wrote that “leadership and learning and indispensable to one another”. Learning stimulates new thinking for leaders, and it helps them stay agile and full of energy. For leaders, learning needs to happen in an ongoing manner, ideally every day. There are over 100 ways to learn, and the best leaders are clear about how they will go about their ongoing learning.
One further point – in searching for and finding clarity, it is important that there is scope for leaders to be flexible. The answers to these questions are not likely to change on a daily or weekly basis. However, they are likely to alter over the years as leaders gain progressively greater understanding about themselves and what it means to lead well.
If you’re a leader I wish you well in finding the clarity you need to perform your role well. I hope these 7 questions assist you in this process. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss.