A large portion of our training and consulting is dedicated to assisting leaders – present and future – to raise their leadership journeys to a conscious level, as well as assist them to engage that personal journey so that they can effectively leverage the lessons learned to their benefit and the benefit of their teams and organizations. We hope that as you have been reading, you have been doing the same thing – consciously engaging your leadership journey.
The premise of my article today can be found in a question you should be asking yourself:
How can I become an extraordinary leader?
Recently while sitting with Avinash Singh, Head of ABSA Private Bank, he described his personal leadership journey and it soon became very apparent that a cycle existed in his life that had assisted him, even at a very young age, to do some extraordinary things. The feature article on him will be published soon, but I reference him now simply because he has some wonderful examples in his life of this cycle at work, that I wish to share with you.
At Leadership Platform we call this cycle “The Extraordinary Cycle” – this same cycle that was so obvious in Avinash’s life, is also active in many of the lives of hundreds of leaders we have met with thus far.
This cycle occurs in each and every one of our lives, and the level to which we engage it really determines the extent to which we excel or remain mediocre. In fact, we feel very strongly that if you do not continuously engage this cycle that you will regress in life – hence the phrase that one “cannot rest on one’s laurels”.
It begins with a person (a leader) having an extraordinary situation thrust upon them. An extraordinary situation is one where the leader is asked to potentially do more than he or she thinks they are capable of doing. Avinash continually described this element of his extraordinary cycle as situations where he would find himself in a ‘crisis of confidence’ – where he would realise that he would need to really step up his game in order to be effective, and to ensure continuity of movement.
How often has this happened in your life – that you find yourself in the midst of something that you feel is going to potentially drown you?
While immersed in such a situation, what separates an extraordinary leader from someone that will remain mediocre is the attitude with which they engage their crisis. Avinash may have seen that he was not on theappropriate level to meet the demands of the situation, but this did not defeat him – rather he simply used it to measure where he was, what he potentially lacked in order to be where he needed to be, and what he was going to do to raise himself to that point. And then he did it.
We must do the same.
These extraordinary situations may take the shape of a positional change at work, a promotion, a death in the family, a call to champion a cause, divorce, health issues, the birth of a child, loss of employment, a debilitating car accident, and more.
What is also worth noting is that often extraordinary individuals do not wait for, but instead seek out, extraordinary situations.
Often the reason a leader is able to do this is because he or she possesses extraordinary drive. This “Extraordinary Drive” is the second element of the Extraordinary Cycle. When one has Extraordinary Drive there seems to be no hill or mountain too high to climb. Each represents a mere speed-bump on the road to success. Often this kind of drive is healthy; sometimes however it can be very unhealthy. Healthy drive pushes its possessor to do more and be more than what is the accepted norm, but an unhealthy drive may be characterized by blind sacrifice of things that truly matter – like family relationships – for so called ‘success’.
How is one able to create Extraordinary Drive?
You must have a vision of what can be, and you must be 100% invested in that vision. We’ve often heard about people making career choices or searching for employment being advised to “do what you love”, and this is because it will create a drive within that person to do more and be more within their chosen area, than what another might who is just there for the money.
To create such drive you need to know yourself, it is an intensely personal thing – no one can create this drive for you. Avinash mentioned, as one of his key leadership factors, that personal awareness is the hinge upon which true leadership turns.
In addition to Extraordinary Situations and Extraordinary Drive, almost every leader has spoken of having associated and rubbed shoulders with Extraordinary Individuals. In some cases these were mentors, and in others, these were people that inspired them and upon whom they modeled themselves. Either way, extraordinary associations are very important to supporting the movement and drive of leaders desiring to shift themselves into the arena of the extraordinary.
There is great truth in the adage: “Birds of a feather flock together” and the extent to which we are able to fly to the heights of eagles certainly determines whether we are able to become eagles ourselves. Two of the many extraordinary individuals Avinash was very fortunate to have had close relationships with, were Steve Booysen (former CEO ABSA Group) and Maria Ramos (current CEO ABSA Group).
Finally, the last element of the Extraordinary Cycle is something that some will readily admit to having, and others are not so eager to share as part of their success. This final element we describe as Extraordinary Luck. Regarding luck, the famous quote of our South African golfing icon Gary Player comes to mind: “The more I practice the luckier I get.” But there is an undeniable coming together of things that are outside of our control that often leads to a successful end result. Some may refer to this as luck, others as the universe aligning, and others may see it as the blessing of a Divine Hand.
So how can you become an Extraordinary Leader? By consciously activating the Extraordinary Cycle in your life. For you it may be a simple adjustment of focus or an attitude shift towards current circumstances. Or it may be that one or more of these elements are missing in your life. Whatever it is, this cycle is a universal model that we have uncovered which finds place at the core of the successes and achievements of extraordinary individuals, regardless of economic background, race, level of education, or current circumstances.
We share it with you today with the intent to consciously awaken the extraordinary in you. This can only be done as you realize that this cycle exists in your life, and the level of your engagement of this cycle will determine the heights that you are able to climb.
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.