For 40 years I’ve been obsessed with learning the answer to what makes a difference in the quality of people’s lives: Why is it that some people who are given every advantage so often fail to achieve what they desire and deserve.
In contrast, we all know people who have lived incredibly difficult lives – lives filled with unimaginable challenges, and often injustice – who still seem to find a way to breakthrough and get results, not only for themselves, but also to serve others in a very deep and meaningful way.
I’ve had the honor of working in 100 countries with more than 50 million people from every walk of life: from incredible leaders to the most challenged individuals you can imagine. We’ve had four million people in my live seminars, so at this point I’d have to be an idiot if I didn’t see that there are certain patterns that cause people to succeed and other patterns that cause people to fail – patterns that cause people to be overwhelmed and stressed out and other patterns that allow people to find deep meaning and success in virtually every aspect of their lives.
Part of my understanding has come from the fact that for decades I’ve been a leader called upon by leaders. I get the call when the fire starts. When the President of the United States has to address the nation. When an athlete is burning down on national television and I’m required to intervene and create measurable change on a moment’s notice.
The one thing that I’ve found that separates the quality of people’s lives – the single largest difference — is the capacity to lead. Leadership skills are not just a gift. Leadership skills are something anyone can learn.
Who is a leader? You and I both know it’s not always the person who controls things by position. How many times have we been in a meeting when the person at the lowest position was influencing the direction of a decision or a project? We all know that leadership —whether you are the CEO, or the manager, or the mom — is about the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings.
But here’s the key: there’s an energy to leadership. There’s a passion. There’s a level of connectedness that leaders have with others. It’s their ability to get things done and make progress that sets them apart.
All leaders have different styles. But leadership, in its essence, comes from the same core qualities. It’s not just great oratory. The spirit of great leadership is the capacity to take visions and to influence others to do more than they would ever have done on their own. Great leaders help people raise their own standards so that regardless of whether or not the leader is present, the organization or individual still performs at a higher level than ever before. At its essence, leadership is the ability to inspire people. It’s the ability to ignite the human spirit and execute consistently.
Leadership is not luck, nor is it haphazard. Anyone who has been successful in any one area consistently is not lucky. They are doing something unique. Remember, success leaves clues!