What keeps us from leading others more often than we do?

Two of our most successful conservationists exhibited many leadership qualities. Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie sitting together outdoors at the annual meeting of The Wilderness Society Council, Old Rag, Virginia, 1946.

Two of our most successful conservationists exhibited many leadership qualities. Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie sitting together outdoors at the annual meeting of The Wilderness Society Council, Old Rag, Virginia, 1946.

I believe tackling difficult problems in conservation, like in life, requires various combinations of patience, tolerance, silence, eloquence, courage, optimism, unselfishness, curiosity, humility and so much more. There is a lot to leading. It’s unlikely we naturally practice all these behaviors at the right time in the right place. So what holds us back? What limits us? What prevents us from exercising leadership more often than we do?

Perhaps the first (and easiest) step to increase our leadership effectiveness is to name the barriers we’ve placed on ourselves. What are we doing that is helpful? What isn’t helpful? The second part – perhaps the hardest – is acquiring the good traits and reducing or eliminating the bad. If we are interested in leading others more often than we now do, here are a few things we might try.

Conduct a character assessment. What leadership behaviors do we possess? What are our weaknesses? If we could change something about ourselves what would it be? We could ask our closest friends to describe our leadership strengths. Think about what they don’t say. Did they omit leadership characteristics that we also feel is lacking? If so, that’s a good sign we’ve found something to work on. Also identify the behavioral traits we admire in others and wish for ourselves.

Chart a course. What is preventing us from adopting those behaviors? For example, what does it take to listen more and speak less? How can we learn to write like Leopold? Reach across the aisle like Murie? Once we’ve identified the behaviors we need to acquire or shed, it’s time to do some research. Ask others how they came to be so eloquent, optimistic, etc. Did they pick up the technique in training or from a mentor? What are some ways we can adopt these new behaviors? Make a list and map out how to get there.

Commit to change. Identifying our weaknesses and what we need to do to change is like a New Year’s Day resolution – without commitment the promise fails. We shouldn’t want to change – we must believe we will. Leading others more often than we do may require training and practice. And don’t forget the mirror neuron effect, i.e., we tend to reflect the values, attitudes and beliefs of those around us. Ultimately, being a leader may require spending less time with those friends and colleagues that may prevent us from fulfilling our commitment to change.

Increasing our leadership potential is possible if we view ourselves as a system. Do a diagnosis. Identify what’s missing from our capacity to lead and what behaviors to drop. Figure out how to merge those desired behaviors into our character. Resolve to become the person that we want to be. And by removing the self-imposed limits we place upon ourselves we open up new possibilities for solving problems and reaching our goals.

What has helped you adopt leadership behaviors? Take a moment to share your experience with others. And as always, I encourage you to share this blog with others and subscribe. With a subscription, you will be notified of each new blog post. Happy holidays!

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About cognizantfox

Cognizantfox has served his country over twenty-five years doing the unselfish, noble work of conserving America's natural heritage.
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