Leadership starts in the mirror

Does Leadership start in the mirror?


Is the greatest attribute of leadership, humanity?

And that of entrepreneurship, open-mindedness?

And if so, is that which binds the two, self-awareness?


By any definition, humanity has to do with compassion and an intense – even intrinsic – interest in others. And many of the attributes of leadership have humanity as a foundation. Indeed, it would be difficult to describe leadership without humanity.

A study of the exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton (some would have him as the greatest leader ever) shows his skills as including compassion, responsibility for others, sharing a vision, learning from one’s own mistakes as well as those of others and respect. He sought to surround himself with people with skills other than his own.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner have carried out research as background for their seminal “The Leadership Challenge” now in its 5th Edition. Over 24 years they have researched the 20 most important characteristics expected of admired leaders. Included among those 20 are: honesty, broad-minded, fair-minded, dependable, supportive, co-operative, caring and loyal, all of which have humanity as a basis.

Other characteristics include forward-looking, inspiring, determined, courageous and ambitious which are all strong clues as to the degree to which the leader is entrepreneurial. Open-mindedness – which, of course, is closely linked to these characteristics – is a natural for a successful entrepreneur. Without it, new ideas, concepts, markets and potential would never be envisioned.

For an entrepreneur to ensure they place themselves in the best position to optimise on their abilities to see opportunities where others do not, a hefty dose of leadership is greatly beneficial to their cause. Perhaps the ideal way to gain the required leadership attributes is via self-awareness. How are my actions and words, my reactions and responses seen by those I need to bring my ideas to reality?

It is for this reason that US management guru said “leaders cannot afford to have a bad day!” By not being self-aware, they give consent for all others in the organisation carte-blanche to respond to negative scenarios in the same way. On the other hand, taking the time to develop self-awareness also provides time to consider how to behave in a way that demonstrates the required leadership attributes.

So, my contention is that it all starts in the mirror. Taking the time to reflect on how personal behaviour affects other people, is the first step in learning the art of leadership that will be required to develop ideas to their full potential.

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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