How to live, eat and breathe leadership

LL 102 not position, but dispositionWhen her workplace instituted a new nonsmoking rule, Gail came to realize that healthy living is a lifestyle choice—not just a workday prohibition. Practicing it part-time simply wouldn’t produce the results she wanted. So she chose to quit smoking entirely, eat better, exercise more frequently and enjoy the benefits of her healthier body.

This serial feature is so named because leadership is not something you merely put on and take off like a work hat. It isn’t just for time on-the-clock, special occasions, or for show. Leadership is not a matter of position, but of disposition, and extends to all facets of life.

Like my friend living the healthy life of a true believer, those who pursue true leadership embrace a whole-life concept that guides all their beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and actions. The leadership lifestyle then serves them well in all arenas of living: mind and spirit, labor and leisure, home and community.

This leadership-enabled lifestyle is substantiated in an extraordinary life based on our daily dealings with our circumstances, contemporaries, calamities, and capabilities. Aspire to these foursquare living principles:

1. Live above your circumstances.
Circumstances have a way of getting up in your grill. Good, bad or indifferent, they’ll rule you every time if you overcompensate them with significance, or seek your validation in them. Follow not their tracks, but direct your own.

Be clear on your own value and purpose in something greater than what mere circumstances show. Recognize that conditions are always transient. And as such, they are powerless when pitted against timeless assets of faith, integrity, perseverance and sacrifice.

Invest in such virtues for a longer and higher perspective. How may you better appropriate these internal strengths to overcome adverse—or enable empowering—conditions? How, and for what, do you want to be known and remembered? Define yourself apart from your circumstances to soar above them.

2. Live ahead of your contemporaries.
As a leader, your job is to create a preferred future. Which means that much of your daily energies must be invested in things that do not yet exist. You must anticipate changes in customer and family needs, productivity, workflow, training, budgeting, systems, supplies, facilities and programs. You must foresee problems and forestall their befalling. And you must navigate the timeline ahead of others in order to steer them properly when the time comes.

John Maxwell has identified an appropriate acrostic to remember to PLAN AHEAD: Predetermine a course of action. Lay out your goals. Adjust your priorities. Notify key personnel. Allow time for acceptance. Head into action. Expect problems. Always point to the successes. Daily review your plan.

The Boy Scout Motto is even more succinct: Be prepared. When your charted course is well-planned, you gain confidence, secure footing, inspire trust and enable the future. Live ahead of your contemporaries, colleagues, coworkers and collaborators.

3. Live deeper than your calamities.
Trees that thrive in harsh environments do so in part because they’ve got an extensive root system that not only anchors them to their place in the world, but also provides the sustenance they need to survive.

There’s no escaping trouble—this we know! Yet those who are rooted by faith and grounded in authentic, nurturing and stable relationships grow strong, true and resilient—so when disaster strikes, they may be bent but not broken; troubled yet not distressed; perplexed but not in despair; wronged but not abandoned; and damaged but not destroyed.

There’s simply no shelter in a shallow life. To thrive despite misfortune, tragedy or ruin, seek the more profound depths of a life well lived: Enrich and be enriched; support and be supported; raise and be raised; and love and be loved. Live deeper than your calamities.

4. Live beyond your capabilities.
By definition, half of us are underachievers. The majority of us achieve only a portion of what we are capable. But a fraction of us exceed our own limitations to become the most successful achievers of all.

How? Ancient wisdom asserts that where there is no vision, the people perish. So if we are to live and lead like lives matter; if we are to create solutions and results, improve conditions and lives, and achieve purposes and goals for the greater good, we must first hold, then cast a vision that is similarly outsized: beyond the outer limits of any one individual’s personal gifts, comfort zones, and stockpiled resources.

We’re not on this journey alone. With like-minded individuals, we mutually strengthen our resolve, collectively cast off constraints, and jointly amass the ways and the means. We see beyond the here and now. We break through our former boundaries. We achieve in excess of our sum total. And we live beyond our capabilities.

MasterPoint: Leadership living is not a matter of position, but of disposition.