By Daniel Im: William Wallace, Melinda Gates, Hitler, Elvis Presley, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Bono, and Jeff Bezos.
What’s your off-the-cuff reaction when you hear those names? Do you think of similarities or differences? If you could group them together with one word, which one would you use? Would the word “leader” come to mind?
Now you may or may not agree on how effective each one of those individuals were (or are) as leaders, but it’s clear that when they acted, people followed. They led and history is different because of it.
While William Wallace led with passion to secure Scottish freedom from the English, Melinda Gates has led with compassion to give away more money than most people can even begin to fathom. While Hitler led the Germans with an authoritarian grip, Elvis Presley led with his charisma and rolling tunes.
Haven’t you ever noticed that as quickly as you can name leaders, you are able to name different attributes that make each of them uniquely effective? This is because there is no silver bullet to leadership. There is no common set of characteristics that—when put together—produce the end result of a leader.
In fact, just consider the weight of these words from Donald Clifton, the father of Strengths-Based Psychology, the grandfather of Positive Psychology, and the creator of the StrengthsFinder assessment. He was asked, just a few months before his death in 2003, what his greatest discovery was from three decades of leadership research. Here was his response…