I have always been fascinated by the fact that everyone I encounter sees the world in a little bit different way. Out of 7ish billion people, there are 7ish billion unique experiences and perspectives. Even people doing the same thing at the same time in the same place experience things at least a little bit differently.
As I grew up and began to think about different careers I would wonder about the different perspectives that each career brings. How does a scientist look at the world? How about a journalist or an engineer?
As I began to develop an interest in leadership I initially found a plethora of material on what leaders do. There is plenty of literature on great leaders themselves as well as an abundance of articles, blogs, and books with titles along the lines of “the 5 habits of every great leader” or “The three things every leader does each week.”
I quickly realized though that many of these examples of leadership simply didn’t apply. I don’t lead an organization or a movement. I don’t so much as have a single direct report. But I knew that leadership was nonetheless something attainable for me. So I left some of the books and articles about what leaders do, and got back to what I instinctively looked for when I was younger, “how does a leader look at the world?”
The first thing I came to was simple but powerful. Every leader, regardless of what specifically they do, sees the world with an attitude of belief.
But what exactly does a leader believe in? There are 3 beliefs that I have found in common in all great leaders.
1) Belief in themselves. It is common to hear things like “I’m just one person,” or “It won’t make a huge difference.” A leader doesn’t buy it. Not every leader is a national figure. Not every leader gets in the news or on the Time’s bestseller list. But every leader knows that they have the ability to be significant and to do significant things. And that belief empowers leaders overcome doubts (their own or others) and to act and move forward in the face of seeming impossibilities. Leaders spend their time thinking about what they can do instead of worrying about what they can’t.
2) Belief in others. A leader believes in the potential of those around him or her. It is a common notion that “people can’t/won’t/don’t change.” But a leader believes that everyone can grow into more than they already are. Again, there is a focus on “you can” rather than “you can’t.” Imagine Martin Luther King Jr. trying to make his “I have a dream” speech if he truly didn’t believe that people could change. Impossible.
3) Belief that the best is yet to come. This attitude is what keeps leaders up at night and wakes them up in the morning. It drives him or her. Whether things are going well or poorly the leader knows that things, be it a relationship, company, or just a situation, can be better. There is no room in the leader’s mind for “that’s just the way it is,” or “Good enough.”
Take a look at yourself. Which, if any, of these beliefs do you struggle with? Ask yourself, “If I believed in _______, what would I do today? What project would I take on, who would I talk to, what would that belief mean for my schedule? How would I invest my time?”
You’ve got it in you.
So start now.