Leading From The Front

Great leaders lead from the front. Having worked in professional and Olympic sports, I have been fortunate to have seen several World Class leaders at work. Whether in sport or business, great leaders seem to have a magical combination of passion, energy, drive, focus and determination. Obviously, those are not the only qualities required to be a great leader, but I would argue that they are vital components and are often the elements that set the truly inspirational leaders from the rest.

The question is; how do we foster these elements? Do they happen by chance? Are leaders born with those qualities or are they nurtured? Can we build these essential components and develop them? If so, can we also develop them in others?

In my experience, these components can all be developed. I don’t think they are manufactured. I am not sure that you could send someone on a course to learn passion, drive, energy, focus or determination. However, they can be developed. In fact, I believe we cultivate them, just like we do when growing plants. Often we need to create the right conditions for them to flourish. Plants need the stimulation of heat, light, water and nutrients for them to grow. I believe that it is a similar process with these components. We need to provide the stimulation and create the conditions.

Passion, energy, drive, focus and determination are under-pinned by three key elements. These three essential elements are the same elements that we require to perform at our peak. The trio work in combination. It is very difficult to have one of them unless we have the other two, because they depend on each other. You can’t grow plants with light but not water. You need to have all of the vital ingredients working together.

So, what are the three crucial elements? It’s not rocket science. Our three amigos are Confidence, Focus and Motivation. Simply put, our passion comes from our motivation and our belief. In order to have motivation, we need a compelling reason to engage in something. That reason has to be incredibly important to us. Many leaders are following their dreams. It is their dream that gives them the compelling reason. When we have the compelling reason and we know how important it is, we start to take on the ‘nothing will get in our way’ mindset. However, the reason alone is not always enough. If we are to throw ourselves into it, we also need belief. For example, we need to believe in ourselves, our team, our strategy and in what we’re doing. Therefore, we have to have confidence & belief to give us the passion, energy, drive and determination. We need rock solid confidence in order to keep going when things look gloomy. There are always bumps in the road. Sometimes we go for long periods without results before we become successful. If we don’t have unwavering confidence, we’re likely to give up.

Even with the power of confidence and motivation, we will not be successful without focus. Having energy is great, but it’s only useful if we direct it. Without direction we become enthusiastic fools. Great leaders have a very simple and clear focus. This simple, clear focus directs them and also helps them provide a simple, clear focus to their teams. Focus is the foundation, upon which we are able to grow confidence and motivation. When we have a simple, clear job, we are likely to be able to do it well. If we can do the job really well, we become confident. When we are confident, we enjoy doing that job and we want to do it again. Therefore we develop motivation. Motivation is often comes from confidence, and confidence from focus.

Personally, I don’t think great leadership should be left to chance. I believe it should be cultivated, grown and nurtured. There are great leaders all around us, just waiting for the right conditions to thrive.

For more information, check out Part Three of “Mental Toughness in Five Steps”