Leadership is about who you are and who you can become. It is about what you do and how you engage and empower others to get things done.

Leaders lead processes, programs, projects, teams, functions, and organizations. They also lead emerging networks, virtual communities, and other webs of activity in new and evolving business models and ecosystems.

Whether you are advancing in an organization, beginning a new career, or starting a new venture, leadership will likely be the most important key to long-term success. Ownership for your own development starts with creating a personal leadership approach, or paradigm. Four building blocks of this paradigm are:

  • Mindsets: Ways of thinking. The ways in which you think about yourself, the world, and your role as a leader. Your core beliefs, values, motivators, and frames—the mental models—that guide your behaviors and interactions with people. An example of a useful mindset is wanting to perform well as a leader not because of an anxious fear of failure but rather because of a healthy commitment to excellence.
  • Behaviors: Ways of relating. The ways in which you demonstrate your character and personality and show-up as a leader. Your modes of conduct in how you listen, react, speak, and relate to others. The ways in which you carry out your responsibilities and engage with and inspire people. An example of a useful behavior is an alert presence when interacting with others—how you listen actively and pay close attention without interrupting or getting distracted.
  • Practices: Ways of being. The daily, weekly, and monthly habit patterns you follow to be intentional and disciplined as a leader. The conscious habits which enable you to effectively balance and blend life and work. An example of a good practice is a half-hour, mid-day meeting with self that is protected for contemplation to help flow with the day’s situations, stay grounded, and stay focused on key priorities that matter most.
  • Abilities: Ways of working. The breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise you apply in doing work. The core strengths you leverage and the related technical and interpersonal skills that enable you to be effective, including the key competencies of active listening, critical thinking, and decision making. An example of a useful ability is influencing the decision process that affects funding and resource allocation for the team(s) you lead. 

Helpful questions for getting started with a leadership paradigm include: What are some personal beliefs about myself and my potential as a leader? What are my strengths? What personal and professional traits have enabled my success? What traits might limit future success? What critical and constructive feedback have I received? What challenges do I face over the next few years? How will I get the help and support I need?

Leadership is an ongoing growth process that begins with self-awareness and requires sincere honesty, humility, and curiosity. Your leadership paradigm will evolve with new experiences, perspectives, and capabilities.

What is your leadership paradigm?