The word compelling is certainly a positive one, yet there can be varying degrees of how compelling someone might be. It can also be highly subjective in the eyes of the person stating the word, but the word is one you will pay attention to when it is woven into a conversation. Particularly when it is offered in the context of describing a leader.
In my personal experience of both working for, collaborating with and advising leaders, there are a number of characteristics that most of them foundationally have. One of them is a presence that has the effect of commanding your attention. An energy that they exude which is similar to a gravitational pull towards them, and in a positive way. Another characteristic which I have commonly experienced is the person’s ability to articulate information succinctly and in a highly compelling way to what they are saying. Although they may not have earned your trust, you inherently place your trust in them.
Granted there are numerous ways to describe a leader, and you have a gut instinct when you are with someone who is a leader in the making, not everyone who has been appointed as a leader should be one. Unfortunately, there are innumerable examples of these type of leaders, and they often overshadow the leaders who are tremendous ones that don’t get the same level of attention or notoriety. This is often because of the fascination people have with spotlighting people and topics which are less than favorable, and which have a higher level of “shiny object” effect. Consider the mainstream news as a heavy contributor to this phenomenon.
If you are a leader, or potentially on track to be one, have you actually truly stopped to think about whether this is the path you want to be on? I offer this question to have you consider the point at which you either decided to pursue this path, or the time when other people placed you on it.
Let’s start with the assumption you solely decided to pursue being placed onto a leadership path. Of course, not all leadership paths are equal, so I’ll leave the interpretation of what type of leadership path you are on up to you to decide upon. Although you may think that you either want to, or deserve to be on a leadership track, I can assure you that you will have more detractors than supporters of this decision at the onset. Why? Because by nature, people can be skeptical about someones abilities until they have more proof of them being able to accomplish something. However, the conundrum with this thinking is that how can you prove your ability without being given any opportunity to do so?
This is where early leaders who decided they wanted to be on the leadership track were potentially either more creative, or influential. Possibly both in terms of seeking and finding opportunities to gain their leadership experience. Now, consider these people early on in their “training-wheel” leadership roles. I’m certain many of their experiences with their early leadership roles were less than ideal, and I’m fully confident they made many mistakes. With each mistake they made, they either learned from it, were extended forgiveness or continued forward without the benefit of being reflective on the experience. Hold this thought for a moment.
The early leaders who did not take the time to be contemplative of their mistakes, or who do not admit having made any, are not who would be deemed a compelling leader. Why? Because there is a certain level of needing to splice in having a dose of humility and humbleness to being a compelling leader. In the absence of these characteristics, a leader becomes far less compelling as someone you want to trust, or put your greatest efforts into supporting. This might not even be something you are consciously aware of, but when you are, the compelling leader is someone you will do extraordinary work to support.
If you are wondering what other aspects there are to being a compelling leader, or are wondering if someone you work for is one, or one in the making, consider these suggestions to make this determination:
- Would you proverbially “run through a wall” to support your leader, or would you initially hesitate before doing this?
- What makes the leader someone you are proud of supporting? If they are simply someone you derive a paycheck from, chances are good they are not a compelling leader.
- Do you have confidence in your leader’s abilities to make the right decisions which will offer the greatest benefit for the organization or team they lead? At least 95% of the time.
- How would you rate your leader’s likeability level? You might not support all of their decisions, but can you separate how you feel about their decision making qualities from whether you actually like this person? It’s much easier to support a leader that you like, and this is also one of the compelling characteristics you should look for.
- Respect is generally earned, although there are plenty of circumstances when you need to grant respect upfront, and then determine whether the leader is compelling enough to sustain the respect they may not have earned, but that is granted to them.
- Leaders are intended to be followed. If you have any hesitancy about following your leader, chances are good, they do not fall into the category of being a compelling leader.
- Being a compelling leader and outcome performance may in fact be mutually exclusive. However, when a compelling leader is able to achieve performance factors which are favorable, and consistent, this is a highly desirable combination to look for and achieve. I want to underscore that this is not an individually achieved outcome, and takes many people into consideration to accomplish. A compelling leader will acknowledge this.
Not all compelling leaders will be able to tick off all of the boxes above, and there are certainly numerous other characteristics which contribute to making them one. The point I am emphasizing is that we will always have a need to develop and support compelling leaders, or people who are willing to step into the role of being one. Thank you if you are one currently, or are on your way to being one.
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