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Making Your Leadership Your Life

By Brent Filson

Many leaders think that their leadership is something they do on-the-job and not in their life off-the-job. However, the author contends that the best leadership should be applicable both to on-and-off-the-job activities.

Companies facing global competition are expecting more from all employees, more initiative, more innovation and more results.

Critical to meeting these expectations is leadership. The word "leadership" comes from a old Norse word meaning "to make go." Leadership is needed in organizations to make things go, to muster and coordinate direction, ardent commitment and resource alignment.

Working with thousands of leaders of all ranks and functions during the past 21 years, I've seen that most leaders deem leadership as exclusively an on-the-job dynamic. They don't see it as a life dynamic.

Companies seeking more from their employees must promote leadership that delivers more, and that leadership can only deliver more if it is effective both on and off the job.

If you don't make your leadership your life and your life your leadership, you diminish both your leadership and your life.

The reasons are simple. The best leaders establish a deep, human, emotional connection with the audience. Why is that necessary to achieve organizational results? Leadership isn't about getting people to do what they want to do. If people simply had to do what they wanted to do, leaders wouldn't be needed. Instead, leadership is about getting people to do what they don't want to do and be totally committed to doing it. These people have a good chance of achieving a lot more results, achieving those results faster, and achieving "more, faster" on a continual basis. One may tyrannically order people to get results, but the effectiveness of such leadership is not as consistent nor as substantial as having people make the free choice to get results. And people will make that free choice mainly in an environment in which deep, human, emotional relationships are developed.

Look at the leaders in your life. I'm sure you've been at the receiving end of both the tyrants and those with whom you've had deeply beneficial relationships with. Weren't you more likely to go all out for those leaders who promoted an environment in which those better relationships flourished?

Clearly, that's an environment one should seek to establish in one's life as well. The relationships you develop as a leader can be similar to the relationships you should develop in your life outside your job. In my many seminars on the Leadership Talk, I have seen people use my processes outside their job, with their spouses, friends, and children, etc.

There are many values that should be promoted in our lives: trust, honesty, integrity, coming through on commitments, fairness, tenacity, tolerance, and more. Let's "trust" as one example.

I believe we should live a life of trusting others. I call it "living in trust." Of course, trust can be taken too far, and we may open ourselves up to be deceived and betrayed. My wife says I often trust others too much; and certainly I have paid in many ways over my life for such a propensity. But I believe that even though we may be deceived if we trust too much; we will nevertheless suffer more if we don't trust enough.

Living in trust means extending trust without conditions until that trust is clearly betrayed. And then, depending on the circumstances, we may continue to extend trust even if it is betrayed. For when it is betrayed, we may not necessarily be the poorer for it. We may indeed be the richer; for without trust, we cannot establish deep relationships.

My view of trust in life can be extended to leadership. Leadership is about getting continual increases in great results. To do that, leaders must engender trust in the people they lead. In fact, great results can't accrue without strong bonds of trust established between the leader and the people.

I've often said that it is better for a leader to have bought the Brooklyn Bridge for a nickel rather than to have sold it for one. People will not be led by you to do extraordinary things unless they trust you; but they won't trust you unless they know you are taking the risk to trust them. In fact, many organizations get into trouble when the people don't trust or stop trusting their leaders; and when their leaders stop trusting them.

So, trust operates both in our lives and on our jobs as leaders and must be cultivated both on and off the job.

There are many other values that should be manifested in both the life one leads and the leadership one manifests. The point is that when you make sure the leadership traits you carry out on the job are the very traits you live by in your life, you enhance the quality of your leadership and your life.

2006 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

PERMISSION TO REPUBLISH: This article may be republished in newsletters and on web sites provided attribution is provided to the author, and it appears with the included copyright, resource box and live web site link. Email notice of intent to publish is appreciated but not required: mail to:

About The Author

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. - and for more than 20 years has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at For more on the Leadership Talk: http:///


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