I ran cross country as a high school student. Truthfully I was on the cross country team. My performance would have likely lost to an Olympic speed walker. I was not fast!
Despite my less than impressive times, I was a leader on our team.
At the end of my senior season I was asked to present awards at our sports banquet and to make a formal presentation to our retiring Athletic Director. I had no clue why. Honestly I assumed I was asked by mistake. The only athletic award I ever won was "Most Mediocre" and I was laughable as a public speaker at the time.
Sheepishly I asked my coach why in the world she wanted me to do this. Her response reshaped how I viewed myself and continues to give me permission to lead how I do today. She said, "Kevin, you are presenting because no one else is as qualified because no one else is you. You lead by being you. Don't perform. Don't try hard. Just be you. That's all it takes." She taught me that I had all it took to win without having all the talent I thought I needed.
Every day I am asked to lead in some arena where I have very limited talent. The good news is that talent is overrated when it comes to making an impact as a leader. Talent creates unforgettable performers, but leadership demands something deeper. Below are 10 traits requiring no talent from you as a leader, but will net you strong results.
Being on time.
If you cannot be early at least be on time. Tardiness is a sign of disrespect to those counting on you. Chronic lateness is the fruit of lack of discipline or little margin. Both serve leaders poorly. Promptness is an irreducible minimum in leadership.
When the work gets hard, work hard. While we need personal time in order not to burn out, the best leaders have fight to make that happen. Mark Cuban says, "Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you."
"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." Stephen King. While I will never be the most talented person in a room, I will always out-effort all of the talent. Those whose efforts push harder will be promoted higher.
Make an impact by how you carry yourself. Hold your shoulders back, look people in the eye, don't sigh when working, and stand still instead of shifting weight. These communicate confidence. Two ways to stand out in our culture using your body language is to smile and keep your face out of your phone.
"Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity." Bo Bennett. Leaders cannot delegate energy, it is theirs to supply. It manifests outwardly to get a new project off the ground. It embraces the grind in order to move the machine along.
Chose an attitude of joy over skepticism. When others are nonchalant, have an attitude that simply cares more than the competition. Lead yourself to determine your attitude instead of allowing circumstances to determine it for you.
Passion is the fuel for success. Don't underestimate the power of being fired up for your cause. And don't mistake passion for volume. Mature passion is always relentless but rarely loud.
Teachability is the hallmark of next level leaders. Learn to ask questions and listen. Know what you do not know and stay humble enough to allow others to guide you.
Chic-fil-A is known for “Second Mile Service.” Refuse to do just enough. Over delivering is remembered long after the delivery is over. Remarkable people give you more than you pay for, ask for or expect.
Sweat in preparation so you don’t bleed in battle. Flying by the seat of your pants is good for those who want to get by on talent. Unseen preparation results in unforgettable performances.
I believe these traits can help you realize your leadership potential. While you put these into practice, I am starting training for speed walking in the next Olympics!