The 7 i’s To Making Great Leaders

by David Olson

Part I

Most professionals I know are striving to be Leaders or to become better Leaders.  They take classes, join groups, read books and pursue a multitude of avenues to acquire this career metal, often spending much time, energy and money to achieve it.  The journey of Leadership is a long slow journey that requires a combination of wisdom, action and awareness.  The 7 “I’s” formula is a roadmap that I hope you find enlightening, thought provoking, and a stimulus for your ability to gain or grow in this trait.  In this two-part article we will unpack the 7 “I’s” formula, and reveal the ultimate equation.

1 Intuition* a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence : a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why : something that is known or understood without proof or evidence
Think of what instinct looks like in the animal kingdom – where the survival of predators and their prey are equal to their ability to quickly sense, make decisions and act.  The wrong decision at the right time or the right decision at the wrong time still equals failure.

Leaders with strong intuition win.  If you want to be a good Leader and be a winner, than you need to know how to build this part of the formula into your essence.  This one is not easy.  In fact most of the “I’s” are difficult to acquire, but I hope with some mental perseverance you gain enough insight to expand your abilities.  Unfortunately, much of Intuition is intrinsically written into the code of our DNA, a complex web of thought patterns, life experience, intelligence, processing style and speed, and feelings.  Intuition can also come and go depending on a host of life circumstances.  Very few Leaders have pinpoint accuracy with their Intuition.  Because good Leaders are aware that their Intuition can be flawed, many will learn to gauge their Intuition and by measuring it speedily with a sprinkle of knowledge, they can adjust how much weight to put behind their Intuition.  If you want to grow in the first I of the formula, then you will need to strap on discipline and expand your business, life and philosophical reading, get into a mentorship relationship or two, and regularly test your Intuitive thinking with those who are wiser than you.  This takes calculated and purposeful communications to develop this ability.  There is no shortcut.

2 Initiative* the power or opportunity to do something before others do : the energy and desire that is needed to do something : a plan or program that is intended to solve a problem

If you laid out the first six “I’s” next to each other like cards on a table, then this one would be your trump card.  Initiative is the gas pedal, the trait that makes things happen.  Initiative immediately follows Intuition, and if not, then your Intuition becomes a distant memory, not a reality.  Initiative is primarily distinguished by a Leaders DNA, an internal urge to see movement, to affect change, to drive ideas forward.  The two biggest hindrances to Leaders excelling in this trait is lack of self confidence to act and a low urgency personality trait.  Self confidence can only be gained by taking risks, emotionally recording successes, and finding the internal stamina to stay the course when the desired outcomes are not achieved.  Urgency is difficult because you either are an urgent person or not.  When you are urgent, you have a trait that is natural – that flows from your being and can’t help itself – it craves forward progress and is not satisfied if progress is not made.  The challenge is how does one cultivate this trait when it’s not natural.  If it’s not there, it won’t be, so you need to be aware of this is your style and identify team members who are urgent and then empower them to execute.

3 Influence* the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen : a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way

One’s ego-drive is critical to how strongly you desire to influence your surrounding business environment to make it better.  I have so often witnessed business executives who want to be Influencers, but because it’s not a high motivator for them, they either squander opportunities or they shift their desire for Influence into personal gain, and their initiatives become tainted.  The best process for growing in this area is asking why, journaling your desire as a Leader, and galvanizing the desired outcome as a healthy passion beyond you.  This “I” has the biggest potential to trip up Leaders because it easily slips into a selfish ambition.  Check that at the door.

Check back for the next issue to learn the rest of the equation and the most important “I” that occurs as a result of mastering the equation.

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