The Makings of a Great Leader
Posted on November 22 2017
Growing up, I remember my father always talking about how he looked up to one of his officers in the New Zealand Fire Service. This was a man my dad said he would follow into any situation. Given the danger firefighters face almost daily, this said a lot about the level of trust my dad placed in him. This officer my Dad said would never send his men in where he wouldn’t go and was a man who led from the front.
I was really lucky to grow up in a family that had so many role models I could learn from. For me, the idea of a great leader was always inspiring and something that I try to practice in my daily life today. If you know or come across someone with natural leadership skills, make sure you observe and learn a thing or two from them.
Let’s take a look at five essential leadership archetypes or roles to know and develop.
The Warrior: Leading from the frontline
No battle, however historic or trivial was ever won by taking it on halfheartedly. Leaders, regardless of their field of expertise, are born in the throws of the frontline. I always think about Richie McCaw when I think of this archetype, a man who lead the All Blacks through some of their toughest and proudest times throughout his sixteen year career.
McCaw has endeared himself to his teammates and the global Rugby community through his outstanding performances and ability to compete consistently for almost two decades. Rugby’s is one of the toughest sports out there. McCaw’s self-mastery and outstanding commitment to the mental and physical hardships that comes with top flight Rugby has been nothing short of exemplary.
Former South African coach, Nick Mallet, had this to say about McCaw, "It is his captaincy that sets him apart. Leading from the front and always setting the example. Modest, he is the perfect New Zealand captain." What makes McCaw the ideal warrior archetype is his willingness to take the hard knocks both on and off the field and show up for his team and country so consistently and outstandingly.
The warrior is also the type of leader who takes responsibility when things go wrong. This archetype takes the glories with the defeats and faces failure square in the face. Making decisions come with consequences that warrior-leaders are prepared to face without shifting the blame or distancing themselves from responsibility. Once people recognise this quality in you, they’ll start placing their trust in you.
2. The wise master: Experience is the mother of insight
When it comes to being calm in the face of a crisis or challenge, I can think of so many occasions that my father embodied the classic characteristics of wisdom and experience.. In an emergency he was always cool, calm and collected.
I still clearly recall the day my brother who was suffering a bad lung infection, started choking. My other brother and I flew into a wild panic and didn’t know what to do except scream. My dad, in full control of the situation calmly picked him up and and performed the heimlich manoeuvre and when this still didn’t work and he was turning blue tipped him upside down and whanged him hard enough to dislodge the blockage. He knew what needed to be done and saw to it, unemotionally and without panic. It was only later that he sat me down and made me understand that my reaction only provoked an already tense situation.
Emotions aside, strong leaders address the urgency of situations and take care of the necessary. The wise leader taps into his/her internal resources and experience to handle situations calmly, instead of being overcome with panic.
3. The scholar: Make everyday a day to learn. Be ever the student and sit humbly at the feet of those who can teach you.
No matter how skilled or experienced you are in one area you are undoubtedly a novice in others Remember that and always be learning from others with skill sets or knowledge you need.
You should never feel like you know it all and there is no need to continue your education especially in this ever changing world we live in.
World-famous businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Richard Branson, says his curiosity is what’s made his businesses and personal brand relevant for so many years. With technology, culture, and marketspaces underpinned by constant disruption, leaders like Branson, who are willing to constantly learn, adapt and develop themselves are poised to thrive.
From business leaders to sporting coaches, the way people do things are changing almost daily. Consider this, over a quarter of the world’s richest companies today were founded only in the last 15 years and 85% of jobs you’ll find in 2030 don’t even exist today.
This highlights the fact that the future is anyone’s game. We see it everyday with companies like Uber, AirBnB, Amazon and others disrupting once secure business models and many established brands either becoming obsolete or battling for relevance.
The scholar is a leader who loves to learn and to be challenged. He or she is always looking for the new and steers away from complacency and mediocrity. These character traits makes the scholar capable of adapting and making decisions in the face of rapid change. The scholar archetype will do well in our current milieu and embraces the disruptive nature of the way we live, work and play.
4. The believer: Trust yourself and back yourself even if no one else will.
I remember making the decision to take on the challenge of competing in the 222 kilometre La Ultra - The High Race in the Himalayas. It was a daunting challenge, completely outside my comfort zone and at the time only one man had done the race successfully the others and some of the crew all ending up in hospital with altitude sickness. It was a scary prospect.
But when I decided to do it I committed wholly to completing what I knew would be one of the toughest physical and psychological tests of my life. This journey taught me immensely valuable lessons about what can be achieved if you believe in yourself.
It ended up being one of the biggest journeys of self-discovery that I had ever taken.
Coming back to what it takes to embody the qualities of a leader, this race taught me many lessons that I share with other athletes I coach, to prepare them for really tough situations ahead.
Believers are the kind of leaders who dare to push past the possible to achieve the unimaginable. Through their commitment this archetype is the one who can inspire others through their daring. They are willing to risk failure, step outside their known limitations and risk embarrassment.
5. The leader as the comedian
A leader who can see the lighter side of life, to boost morale and see a silver lining in every bad situation, no matter how dire the situation can lead their team to top performances. The comedian isn’t about taking the mikey out of others but is there to use humour, fun and positivity to help others through tough times or situations.
Hone your leadership skills everyday
Whether you’re an up and coming entrepreneur or you are training for your first ultramarathon, the leadership skills you acquire along the way will prepare you to take advantage of opportunities and face adversity head on while guiding and supporting others on their journeys. To lead others is also to be a servant. Their needs must surpass yours. You must have at heart the good of the team, organisation or group foremost in your priorities and leave your ego at home. To lead is not to be the “Big Boss” who barks orders in an arrogant manner that is unfortunately so common. It is to be the example, the guide, the inspirer, the scholar, the sage, the role model for your team.
Just like any habit or muscle you want to develop, you’ve got to be willing to face difficult situations you’d rather avoid to develop the leader inside you
If you enjoyed this blog please check out the accompanying podcast episode number 40 on "Pushing the Limits" www.lisatamati.co.nz/podcast
And if you want more topics around mindset, goal setting, motivation and focus download my free goal setting ebook here: