As a leadership coach, I have searched high and low to find a definition of leadership that fits what we are seeing on the national election stage.  Since I cannot, I stand by the inference in the title which I am sure some will disagree.  I also reference a recent Gallup Poll rating the candidates lowest in Inspiring, Caring for Individuals and Visionary in that order.  Given these are also traits the nation is looking for in their next leader further supports the assertion.  However, what bugs me more is the narrative around hopelessness and helplessness coming from the candidates’ supporters.  Really!  Is all really lost because of one person?

I’ve certainly been in many situations throughout my career where my direct supervisor, whether they be a front-line manager or CEO, who would not win “Boss-of-the-year”.  I can also never remember a time where I used my supervisor’s weaknesses as an excuse to act hopeless or helpless.  When you think about it, nothing changes by blaming your present situation on someone else.  As the expression goes, “Being resentful is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  So what can we do to ensure our own motivation stays properly focused in light of poor leadership around us?

  • Understand your own motivations ~ I often hear from clients, “My manager does not motivate me”, mostly in the context of why they are under-performing in their job. My reply is always along the lines of how that is not the manager’s job.  They are absolutely responsible for training, inspiring, empathizing and otherwise providing a culture of success.  But only you can motivate you!  Knowing your motivators goes a long way to staying focused in the face of distractions.
  • Actively manage your goals ~ Being motivated is one thing, having goals to focus your motivation is required to turn the want into desired outcomes. The absence of goals makes it far too easy to fall into the mindset of looking to blame others for lack of progress, either professionally or personally.  The next president, governor or mayor will have very little direct impact on my ability to achieve my goals for the next year and beyond!
  • Play to win versus playing not to lose ~ How many times have you been in a conversation about what others want to achieve and most of the answers are what they don’t want to do? This is a sure sign of playing not to lose.  When you focus on defending against what others are doing then you essentially put yourself at their mercy.  Decide what you want to do to win (achieve goals) and set out to do just that.  What others do, regardless of their position, may cause a course-correction and only rarely might it cause you to change your goal altogether.  Focus on playing to win!

I’ve long believed that effective leadership is about leading yourself as much as it is about leading others.  Leading yourself begins with an attitude of action supported by affirmations of success.  It includes exercising your responsibilities of citizenship to their fullest, setting the example for others.

In challenging times where effective leadership is scarce, what self-leadership example are you setting for others?

Lead Well!