Tomorrow is not “The Fourth of July.” That is a date on a calendar. It is not the name of the National Holiday that we celebrate tomorrow. The name of the holiday that we celebrate tomorrow is Independence Day. It is the day that we celebrate the declaration of our independence from England.
Today I wish to focus on that word – Independence.
Most organizations are looking for people (and leaders) who can think independently and have the necessary leadership qualities to help act upon those thoughts and make their organization successful.
A Leadership Definition
Many people have different definitions for leadership. Some have boiled it down to just one word – “Influence.” But in general, leadership is the ability of one person to gain agreement, support, and active participation to accomplish a task or a goal. Perhaps it is at the most basic level an ability to get people to follow you. Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Jesus Christ are all leaders in their own unique ways. Some would not be necessarily considered positive leaders. Nor would we want to emulate their actions.
- Julius Caesar ushered in the Roman Empire at the cost of the Roman Republic.
- Abraham Lincoln held the fledgling United States together after the secession of the southern states and the Civil War.
- Napoleon Bonaparte used his creative military strategies and personal charisma to create and rule a great empire.
- Jack Welch took over the reigns at General Electric and during his tenure there, the company’s value rose 4,000%.
- Steve Jobs used his intelligence and passion for computers to “revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.”
- Michael Jordan became one of the greatest basketball leaders and players of all time because of his desire to continually improve, work hard, and take over in tough situations late in the game.
- Joe Montana holds Super Bowl career records for most passes without an interception (122 in 4 games) and he has the all-time highest quarterback rating of 127.8.
- And then there is Jesus Christ. And, well, if you don’t get Him being on the list, then nothing I can say will change that.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on leadership. And there are thousands, or maybe even hundreds of thousands of blogs, just like this one, dedicated to leadership. Many of these books and blogs identify similar traits, attributes, or skills that comprise a good leader. Here are a few of the most common:
- Brains – Your overall capacity to problem solve, reason, plan, and logically think and communicate.
- Tact – Ability to communicate successfully and interact with others.
- Passion – A strong desire or enthusiasm for a purpose, project, or cause.
- Commitment – A pledge and willingness to not give up, even when things aren’t going well.
- Consistent – The fortitude to stand firm and be counted on to be faithful and dependable in your responses to situations.
- Integrity – Having high morals and always being honest and truthful.
- Self-confidence – Being sure in your own abilities, reason, and judgement.
- Work well under stress – Ability to perform at a higher level when things go wrong or there are time constraints.
- Creativity – Ability to problem solve and find unique solutions that others may not have thought of.
- Independent thinking – Ability to make sense of things based on your own experiences and observations.
Did you catch that last one? And really, did you see the one just before that? Creativity is certainly an integral part to being an independent thinker.
Why is Independent Thinking a Leadership Trait or Skill?
Very few leaders have ALL of the skills mentioned above. However, great leaders often have most of them and can apply their different skills and traits at the right times to be effective. Perhaps it is those leaders who have the highest levels of ability to master most of the skills on the list that make up the greatest leaders.
However, it is hard to be a great leader without the ability to be an independent thinker. Great leaders must be able to sift through the giant volume of information available today and determine what is accurate or valuable. Great leaders also use independent thinking to synthesize the data or come up with data points and directions on their own. Great leaders trust in their own ability to make judgments, even if others around them don’t believe in them or may even disagree with their approach.
So, what is the leadership lesson here?
The leadership lesson is that the ability to think independently of the “maddening crowd” is a leadership skill that is sorely needed in today’s world that is guided by popular opinion and is so easily swayed by media and pop culture.
So, today, July 4, 2015, declare yourself to be an Independent Thinker! — It is a revolutionary action.