When we encounter someone who has accomplished great things in his or her field, there's a part of us that wants to seek out their humanness, perhaps a simple gem of advice they've imparted that makes us feel we can own the same success they do. While there isn't prescribed guidelines for certain success, there are telling characteristics of any great leader.
American Scholar Joseph Campbell first identified the story of the leader through a global narrative pattern known as the Heroes Journey. Over time he observed the same story in many cultures, and therefore made the conclusion the story belonged to all of us.
It goes something like this: the archetype hero leaves behind an ordinary world, embraces the call to adventure, and then along the way encounters various setbacks and tests and challenges.
After many travails the hero finally emerges relatively unscathed. The hero is always on a quest for treasure, but in order to claim this treasure they must leave a part of themselves behind as they seek to improve the world through their own skilful transformation.
When you think about it, it's the story adaption of any modern superhero. It also belongs to the ordinary person who has become extraordinary as a result of surviving the stages of survival required in a heroes journey. It's why none of us will ever tire of hearing this story.. because it speaks to the hero in all of us, who falls and rises through life's challenges again and again. The hero could be any of us.
But what do leaders do differently to the rest of us ? True leaders love to share the magic of that ascension with us all, because in sharing how they overcame their adversities and reclaimed their strength they return part of that treasure to us, so that it has the power to transform us into the version of ourselves we aspire to be. Not only do they bring back the necessary tools to face the next set of challenges and journey, but it reinforces their own resilience. It was Confucius who said "Good people strengthen themselves ceaselessly".
Leaders have faith in the unknown. They know that sometimes they are swimming against the current, and that resistance to their goals can surface in many guises, whether it be procrastination or self doubt or even criticism of their work. But they keep going, letting nothing come between them and their purpose. They stay on message.
As author of the War of Art Steven Pressfield describes it, to overcome resistance, you have to turn pro. That means turning up day after day and doing the work. Consistency is everything, Leaders turn up, no matter what the circumstances.
Leaders set boundaries. They know its always better to honest and direct, and that will earn the respect of others. They learn the value of setting realistic boundaries both in their relationship to themselves and with others. They know the value of saying no when it isn't convenient for them to say yes. They know that no explanation is required.
Leaders honour their time, value and worth. In turn so do others. We determine how others treat us by leading by example in our everyday life, like being punctual, displaying integrity in our dealings with everyone and being scrupulous with our words and actions.
Leaders aren't addicted to failure. They know its how you rise, not how or why you fell. They don't play victim and don't attract the drama and distraction that puts them off their game. They dust themselves off, get up and keep working their magic, knowing one day their gifts will be seen.