The majority of articles and blogs about leadership talk about a single aspect – as if it exists and operates in a vacuum – of leadership. It is the public face of leadership: businesses, religious organizations, political organizations, social organizations, schools, and non-profit organizations.

Except for this blog and these books, I have not found any other resource on leadership that discusses it in terms of the whole of spectrum of our lives: it’s who we are, what we are, how we are everywhere in life.

That’s what makes this blog and these books unique. Most people don’t think a blog or books about leadership apply to them: to their lives, to who they are, what they are, and how they are.

They are wrong.

Because they’ve bought into the mainstream idea of what leadership is in a public sense, and since they’re not in one of those positions, then any discussion of leadership doesn’t apply to them.

(And most of the mainstream ideas of leadership are actually “management” instead of “leadership,” which fails time and time again because there are very few people strong enough and courageous enough to get outside of the MBA-fueled tiny, uninnovative, rigid, and constrictive box that confines them to failure).

The reality is that quintessential leadership applies to everyone who lives and breathes. No matter where we are in life or what we are doing, we all lead at least one team, if not several.

Everything we do, we say, and we are is setting an example for the others in our lives, and that, my friends, is leadership. How we do that determines whether we are quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

It is that simple. And that hard.

A close friend and fellow blogger, remarking on “The Quintessential Leader Perspective: Expressing and Showing Genuine and Authentic Appreciation,” said “A tall order! It’s difficult to be thankful towards those who are difficult, yet it is the only right answer.”

Becoming a quintessential leader is the road not taken. It is the hard way, the difficult way, the way that demands that we look at leadership in terms of every and all aspects of our lives, not just a single part.

It requires rigorous self-examination without excuses, justifications, or blaming others. It requires constant, continuous, and momentous change from the inside out.

It requires a complete metamorphosis and transformation at the very foundational core of who and what we are, our intents, our attitudes, our motives, how we think, what we think, how we speak, what we speak, how we act, what we choose to do or not do, and how we set that example for others.

It requires fearless commitment and unwavering fortitude.

There is no room for the pretenders, the wannabes, the half-hearted, the sometimes-maybe, for the lackadaisical, and for the here-but-not-there.

We are either all in or all out.

One of the tests – of veracity, of genuineness, of authenticity – for whether we are quintessential leaders or not is how we consistently handle the good, the bad, and the ugly in life.

All of life.

From our most private internal lives to our most public external lives.

It is important to remember that this is the ideal, the goal that quintessential leaders strive for and to. None of us will execute this perfectly all the time, but there must be aggregate and continual evidence in our lives that this is who and what we are committed to – no matter how many failures, setbacks, and falls along the way we make and encounter -becoming.

Quintessential leadership is hardest to see when life is good. Humanity, in general, tends to be at its best when everything’s going well and life presents no challenges, no upsets, no hairpin turns in the road. We all, at least on the surface, can seem to be charitable, thoughtful, caring, concerned, kind, generous, gentle, merciful, and magnanimous.

It is in the good times, though, that the inner character of quintessential leaders separates them from everyone else.

One component of that character is humility.

Quintessential leaders never elevate themselves above others, nor do they constantly talk about how much they’ve accomplished, achieved, acquired (and, by extension, how much wealth they have by enumerating the amount of money those acquisitions cost), and how awesome and great they are.

Instead, quintessential leaders continue to live life modestly and quietly. They realize that the good times are part of the cycle of life and will not last.

Quintessential leaders also understand that the good times are a gift they did not earn, do not deserve, and are not entitled to, so in an attitude of service and thankfulness for them, quintessential leaders use the blessings of good times to help and assist others, often anonymously, and always silently and without any fanfare.

Another three-pronged component of the quintessential leader’s character that you’ll see in the good times in life is understanding and sensitivity combined with empathy.

Quintessential leaders are always cognizant that although they may be experiencing good times in their lives at that moment, many of the people with whom their lives intersect – and for whom they are examples and, therefore, leaders – may not be.

Quintessential leaders are excellent and accurate observers of life by nature. Because they listen more than they speak and watch more than they engage, they miss virtually nothing about what people say (or don’t say), do (or don’t do), and are (or are not), although they seldom, if ever, say anything about it.

They learn to understand and to relate to others in a tangible and meaningful way that includes the rare quality of being able to empathize by putting themselves into the situations that others are experiencing.

As a result, quintessential leaders are acutely sensitive to the circumstances of other people and how their behavior, words, and actions could affect them, not because they are inherently wrong, but because of what other people may be experiencing (for example, if someone is going through a relationship loss, quintessential leaders would not be talking on and on in bubbly, bouyant, and bouncy conversations with this person about all the great things in their wonderful and fantastic relationships).

Anything other than this kind of understanding, empathy, and sensitivity – deep awareness of others and genuinely and authentically relating to them – would be out of character for quintessential leaders during the good times of life.

Why?

Because quintessential leaders always have the big picture in the front of their minds. Good times come and go. Anything that’s happened to someone else could or may happen to us. How would we want to be treated when we are walking in those shoes?

It is always an others-perspective, not a me-perspective, that defines who, what, and how quintessential leaders are. In the good times in life. And in the bad and ugly times.

It is in the bad times and the ugly times in life that quintessential leaders become more apparent, because the bad times and the ugly times in life are the times that try our souls, our hearts, our minds and our character to their outermost limits.

The bad times and the ugly times present ample opportunities to be unquintessential leaders, to set and be bad examples for the people with whom our lives intersect.

The bad times and the ugly times in life can give rise to unfair criticisms, harsh and inaccurate evaluations and condemnations, rejections, resentments, mockery, stinging and hurtful putdowns (usually guised as “jokes” or followed by smiley faces), spitefulness, jealousies, pettiness, and defensiveness – all of which are not intrinsic character traits of quintessential leaders.

The reality is that we all have to deal with these kinds of attitudes, motives, words, and actions during the bad times and the ugly times in life, whether we are quintessential leaders or not.

They are hard-wired into our human nature and it is in the worst of times that we either fight and subdue them or we embrace and use them.

Unquintessential leaders embrace and use them.

Quintessential leaders fight and subdue them.

In other words, quintessential leaders exercise self-control (and, at times, this is the most exhausting work in the world, because it literally takes every ounce of energy and effort we have) and choose what is right instead of what seems easy, justified, and, at least temporarily, very self-satisfying.

These are very often epic behind-the-scenes battles that end in victories or capitulations, character developments or character destructions, good or bad choices, and wise or unwise decisions.

The outcome of what goes on in the private and inner workings of our hearts, souls, and minds is only apparent in what we do (or don’t do) and say (or don’t say) out in the open.

And it’s in the outward manifestation, in bad times and ugly times, that we can truly distinguish between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders.

Again, in bad times and ugly times in life, we all experience failure in being quintessential leaders.

There is not a human being who has ever lived, who lives, or who will live – except for the Son of God – who has, does, or will get it right 100% of the time. It’s impossible in our current configuration.

However, the hallmark difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders is that quintessential leaders are actively living – consciously and deliberately thinking, practicing, being in every part of their lives all the time – with the goal always directly in front of them.

It is a way of life – an integrated part of who, what, and how they consciencely (that’s not a misspelling – because the state of our consciences is directly related to quintessential leadership) and consciously are and are becoming.

In other words, quintessential leaders are well aware when they fail. Nobody else needs to point their failures out to them. The consciences of quintessential leaders are so finely-tuned and sensitive to what they should and want to be – the ideal – that their consciences are immediately stricken when they fall short in any way.

Quintessential leaders are devastated when they fail because they know that not only have they missed the mark of quintessential leadership, but they have failed the people whose lives intersect with theirs by setting a wrong and bad example.

Quintessential leaders, again, stand out in this area from unquintessential leaders.

Quintessential leaders first admit they failed, to themselves and to their teams. They then apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Quintessential leaders will next immediately undertake an exhaustive post-mortem on what happened and why it happened. In the process, quintessential leaders identify tangible and definitive steps to correct the failure, from the inside out, and actively start taking those steps.

Quintessential leaders often do one more thing: they use their failures and the process of identifying the causes and the corrective actions as teachable moments for their teams.

Unquintessential leaders can’t do this because they don’t even recognize a failure (and if someone pointed it out to them, they’d deny it and get defensive and start attacking the poor, unfortunate soul who dared to say anything), so their bad examples are all their teams get.

And their teams perpetuate those bad examples to their teams, and so it goes until we find ourselves in the world in its present tense surrounded by an overwhelming majority of unquintessential leaders.

But we are not them. Or are we?

 

 

 

 

Comments
  1. […] Third, the art of silence doesn’t mean not listening and not hearing. In fact, it means just the the opposite. Unlike talkative people who have great difficulty (and many times are completely tone-deaf) listening to and hearing anybody else because they’re so busy talking themselves, people who are masters at the art of silence hear and see everything that is said or done. […]

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