What It Takes To Be A Great Leader


This week, I am preparing to transition into a new leadership role: Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Junior League of Greater Orlando.  On Friday and Saturday, the Board of Directors has our weekend retreat where we will meet to discuss and plan to upcoming year.  After our retreat, we will get right into appointing the other leaders of the League among other important tasks.  As I step up into this new position and consider appointing others to the M&C Council, I wonder about leadership.  Why do some people work to develop leadership qualities while others do not?  How can we all continue to push ourselves to be better, stronger leaders?

Roselinde Torres delivered a TED Talk called “What It Takes To Be A Great Leader.”  Watch it here:


Torres discusses what leadership means today, in 2014, and it is quite different from your grandmother’s definition of a leader.  She says leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced in 3 questions: 1) Where are you looking to anticipate change?  She says the answer to this question is on your calendar (Source).  Torres believes have to think about who we’re spending our time with, what we’re spending our time doing, what we’re reading, what we’re thinking about (Source).  The next question is: What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?  Torres says this question is about your ability to develop relationships with people who are very different from you.  Listen to her speech at the 7:00 mark for a really eye-opening answer to question 2.  The third and final question is this: Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?  She argues we should be able to abandon practices that have worked for us in the past.  It’s true that if we always do what is familiar and comfortable, we will never grow.  I believe it is also true that we should abandon past failures.  This final question resonated with me in thinking about it that way.  I think great leaders have a growth mindset and are able to see past failures as stepping stones toward future success.  I also agree with Torres that taking risks to solve problems is essential to leadership.

Maybe we aren’t there yet.  Maybe we’re good at one of those items on Torres’ 21st century leader list, but we have to work on the other two.  Will Yakowicz offers a solution in “How To Be A Better Leader By Rewiring Your Brain.”  Yakowicz says we have to manage our amygdala (our lizard brain).  This will help us take chances and expand our network – two things our lizard brain often holds us back from accomplishing.  Yakowicz’s second solution is to write down things we are grateful for.  He believes “[e]very employee wants a grateful leader. But since the human brain suffers from what psychologists call ‘the negativity bias,’ where we are more attuned to threat than opportunity, you may have to work at firing up your feelings of gratitude” (Source).  This practice will definitely help us with risk taking.  His final solution focuses on all three of Torres’ questions and that solution is to give back. Finding time each day to give to other people helps with the calendar issue, with the network issue, and with the risk-taking issue.  In addition to answering Torres’ three leadership questions, giving back also improves your outlook and optimism, two more great qualities of a leader.

I am fascinated by the concept of leadership, so I constantly read articles in the leadership sections of Forbes and INC.  How do you read, study, and practice leadership?  What do YOU think it takes to be a great leader?


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