Leadership: Create Your Own Mount Rushmore

MR 02In today’s world of counterfeits and wannabes, it’s easy to be confused about a term like “leader.” Sometimes the title may be applied when it’s not really accurate. Some people may have authority to act, but they are not necessarily “leaders.”

Occasionally in a coaching session with a group of clients I show a PowerPoint slide with a simple message:

“We are facing a serious problem! I need you to give everything you have over the next several weeks to help us solve it. I’m afraid you won’t sleep much or be able to spend much time with your family until things are back to normal.”

After they’ve had a chance to ponder the message, I ask the people in the room: “Would you follow this person?”

Naturally, they want to know who it is. So I put a face on the request. The next slide shows photos of a wide range of people—Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Martha Stewart, David Cameron, Jeff Bezos, Nancy Pelosi.

“Which of these people would you follow enthusiastically?” I ask. Then, “Which of these?” and I show a third slide with even more people—Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Whitman, Nelson Mandela, Jack Welch, Mother Teresa, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Belichick, John Kerry, Warren Buffett, Sheryl Sandberg, Donald Trump.

I point out that each of the people has (or had) a formal leadership position. But you would not want to follow them—or anyone else—unless and until you had confidence in three things:

Characterthe person’s integrity, motives, principles, values. Character is what a leader is.

Competencethe person’s skills, gifts, talents, ability to deliver on promises. Competence is what a leader does.

Causethe person’s reason for leading, his vision, goals, his “end game.” Cause is what most often motivates and inspires. Cause is the “why” of noble and compelling leadership.

After some lively discussion about character, competence, and cause, I then ask the people in the room: “What about you? What are you doing to inspire confidence in your character, in your competence, and in your cause?”

From your own life experience, compile a short list of the people you most admire because of the character they demonstrate, the competence they exhibit, and the causes they champion. Then regard these people as your own personal “Mount Rushmore.”

Carefully catalog and observe the qualities you admire in others, then “live” those qualities as your own. It’s a proven step toward becoming the real leader you aspire to be.

This column by Dr. Duncan was also published by Forbes where he is a regular contributor.

Follow on Twitter @DoctorDuncan


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Rodger Dean Duncan

Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of CHANGE-friendly LEADERSHIP and a regular contributor to Forbes and Fast Company magazines. He is widely known for his expertise in the strategic management of change, for organizations and for individuals. In 1972 he founded Duncan Worldwide to train and develop leaders. His clients have included some of the top companies in the world, as well as cabinet officers in two White House administrations.
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