Dear Graduating Students,

The time has finally come for you to move ahead and transition from your college, vocational, and/or technical education environments into the world of business. You may have already chosen a specific industry to “make your mark” and are facing the reality that the marketplace today is very competitive. Therefore, to accelerate your new career and differentiate yourself, it is a critical time for you to look inside and “unlock the leader” within you.

Often when we paint a picture of a leader we may not immediately visualize ourselves in that role. We may think of the owner of a company, the coach of a professional sports team, our religious leader or even the President of the United States. Leadership is neither solely “position-focused” nor about doing. It comes from the ability to have a “Big Picture” mind-set; to see a whole situation or organization and all of its needs. It is a discipline; it is the willingness to do what is required regardless of neither personal mood nor negative, outside influences. Leadership is not about oneself!

There are certain traits that studies have shown are common in most leaders; some innate (we are born with them) and some learned (we develop them). If any of these statements describe you in any way, then there is a great leader in you waiting to realize full potential...

I am a problem solver and decision maker; I motivate others; I plan my time well; I ask many questions; I take time to get to know people; I have the ability to handle stress; I take initiative; I inspire trust and confidence; I listen to others when they have suggestions.

Self-awareness and self-discovery are critical to the process of unlocking the leader within you. Many of you have had different careers, some in different industries and now you are exploring other opportunities. For others, this is just the beginning; your first official job! The situations may be different, but one thing is the same and can be applied to all new leaders. Julie Fuimano describes it well in her book The Journey Called You, “through self discovery and acceptance you open the door to achieving greater potential. This potential exists inside you waiting for you to let it out. You begin to know yourself, to express confidence in being who you are. You give yourself permission to be you. You learn to have respect for yourself and express yourself more clearly and make decisions and solve problems with more confidence. You will begin to delegate in order to manage your time better and to focus on higher-level and longer-term thinking and planning.”

Ultimately, leadership is about getting things done through other people in a positive way. It is the ability to bring out an individual’s full potential and create an environment where someone is willing to “go the extra mile” and step out of their own comfort zone.

In order to be a great leader you need to be able to actively listen to others. You must have faith in others and truly believe they have something of value to contribute.

Leadership is multi-directional. Those being led need to know as much about their leader’s values, motivations, communication and behavioral styles as the leaders need to know about those who follow them. Great leaders understand that success is a shared responsibility; each party needs to hold the other accountable to an established high standard.

When you unlock that leader inside you, you will need to consider what type of leader YOU want to be. Many of our greatest leaders are “Principle-Centered”. The well-known business author Stephen Covey perfectly described a Principle-Centered Leader as “men and women of character who work on the basis of natural principles and build those principles into the center of their lives, into the center of their relationships with others, into the center of their agreements and contracts, into their management processes, and into their mission statements.” They maintain complete alignment between who they are and how they operate (and treat others.)

The esteemed business author John Maxwell was quoted as saying “A great leader’s courage to fulfill their vision comes from passion, not position.” Having a vision is critical for leaders; it is what allows you to see where you want to 1, 3, or 5 years out, professionally and personally! If you have no vision, where are you leading towards? Your vision may change often throughout your career as you grow and learn which is why great leaders embrace a life time of learning.

It is possible that you already have a great leader whom you wish to aspire to, or not. You may just know that you aspire to be a great leader. Whatever the case, now it is a critical time to “unlock” that leader in you and start to learn to be that Great Leader!

Author's Bio: 

Richard Magid is a certified facilitator, business coach and president of Boonton, NJ-based SoundBoard Consulting Group, LLC. Robin Adwar is a partner, business coach and certified facilitator at SoundBoard. SoundBoard works with the leaders and managers of small to mid-size companies to support them in their desire to achieve superior financial results, more effective leadership, greater team and staff productivity, healthier work environments, continued professional growth, and a culture that supports, motivates and retains key individuals. To learn more about becoming a Superior Leader, please contact Richard at 973-334-6222 or send an email to Richard@soundboardconsulting.com.