We choose the path of exceptional leadership because we want to make a difference. Our reasons are not for personal gain, but rather a desire for self-development. Exceptional leadership allows us the position to influence change. The drive for being exceptional is intrinsic and may be difficult for some to articulate.
Exceptional leaders may seek change in the way something is done. They may see a better way others do not see. Exceptional leadership often involves influencing one’s perspective from impossible to possible. Above all else, one thing is certain: exceptional leaders are change makers. These leaders are concerned for the development and enrichment of others.
Exceptional leaders do not seek change simply for the sake of change. Exceptional leaders seek change to challenge the status quo. These leaders do not settle, rather they continue to push the boundaries. Exceptional leaders look for possibilities where others do not. They see opportunities when others see only obstacles. In short, exceptional leaders are often the first to step up and take initiative.
An exceptional leader does not need positional power to influence others. Managers have subordinates, but as we know, not all managers have followers. We find exceptional leaders in all walks of life. They may be business owners, professionals, and even students. How do these leaders with no positional power influence others?
Most colleges and universities offer degrees in management where students learn the five basic functions of managing: planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling. School prepares these students quite well to step into positions of responsibility or even become entrepreneurs. Some students continue on for advanced degrees like a Masters of Business Administration.
Still, the question remains, how does one become a leader? And more so, how does one become an exceptional leader? Although some schools are now beginning to offer advanced studies in leadership, the discipline is still quite new. Furthermore, the 15 year-old high school sophomore certainly does not have a degree in leadership. However, ask school administrators, or the student’s peers, and they will define the student as a true leader.
How does this 15 year-old stand out from the rest of his or her classmates? What makes one business owner a respected community leader over another? How does the professional demonstrate exceptional leadership skills? What is the secret sauce?
One of the building blocks for exceptional leadership is having a high degree of Emotional Intelligence. Self-awareness, the ability to maintain a sense of self-reflectiveness during even the most turbulent times is a key element of emotional intelligence. How does one become a mastery of self-awareness?
A starting point can be taking one of the many assessments available online to identify personality and character strengths. Although Strength-Finders and Myers Briggs are two of the more common tests, several free assessments are also available online providing the individual with a wealth of information. These include:
The Keirsey Temperament Sorter Assessment
Offered on the Keirsey website, this assessment is widely used by government, military, academia, and Fortune 500 companies. The assessment consists of 70 questions that identify personality types into four basic temperament groups: Artisan, Guardian, Rational, and Idealist. Based upon responses, character types are further identified into areas of extroversion, introversion, sensing, intuiting, thinking, feeling, judging and perceiving.
The DISC Assessment
Although normally a fee-based product, this assessment can also be found through some websites for no charge. The DISC assessment measures the following personality characteristics: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. With the measurement, 15 characteristic patterns can be identified: Agent, Appraiser, Counselor, Creative, Developer, Inspirational, Investigator, Objective Thinker, Perfectionist, Persuader, Practitioner, Promoter, Results Oriented and Specialist.
The VIA Character Strengths Assessment
Offered through University of Pennsylvania Master of Applied Positive Psychology the VIA Character Strengths Assessment is another free strength based assessment. Widely used by academia, human resource departments, and coaches, the assessment identifies individual key strengths and provides deeper insight into understanding one’s behavior. As leaders become more aware of why they behave as they do, they begin understanding why others behave as they do. Gradually, mastery over self-awareness, empathy, and social skills begin to grow.
As leaders become more aware of why they behave as they do, they begin understanding why others behave as they do. Gradually, mastery over self-awareness, empathy, and social skills begin to grow. Understanding oneself is key to recognizing what style of leadership fits best.