by Liv Montgomery
What are the traits of Leadership, and how can you get them? Answering this question might seem like an enormous task to tackle, but throughout the ages, people have been doing just that: learning and acquiring the traits that are essential for great Leadership. The easiest way to tackle a big task like this is to break it down into smaller pieces. Let’s do that now.
Transformational Leadership can be defined as the amalgam of Vision, Influence, and Strength. This isn’t the total picture of great leadership, but it’s a place to start. I cover the topics of Influence and Strength in other materials I’ve published. Let’s begin our discussion here with some perspective on what it means to have Vision.
Vision involves seeing the big picture. Now, a lot of people think this means looking toward the future, having an idea of what it looks like, and driving toward it with laser-like focus. It certainly makes sense, and that is part of the picture. I say vision also involves a clear perception of the past, a knowledge of history and how it impacts the present. Having Vision means understanding the lay of the land, seeing what things look like today to clearly map the best route toward your desired future destination.
Here’s an example from America’s own past that illustrates this quality of Leadership called Vision. Abe Lincoln is noted as one of the greatest U.S. presidents of all time, but his early life certainly didn’t reflect his potential greatness. He failed in business, lost numerous elections, and was passed over for nomination for Vice President. After eight major career failures, Lincoln was elected President of the United States during the most stressful time in the nation’s history. About five weeks after Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th United States President, Civil War broke out and lasted four years. His Leadership kept the country united and ended the practice of slavery.
Lincoln managed this in spite of incredibly odds and obstacles – he suffered from depression at a time when there was no Prozac – but it was his Vision that preserved the Union. Lincoln’s job was to deal with a country that was divided by war. He saw the issues of the day not only in their context of political climate, but as an essential legacy in the span of all history – juxtaposing the realities of the past with idealism for the future.
Lincoln knew that millions upon millions of lives would be dramatically effected by the outcome of his personal actions as well as those of his cabinet and military leaders. He knew that his actions in the present would soon become part of the nation’s past and leave a legacy for future generations. The scope of his Vision spanned centuries, not just the moments leading up to and following his greatest decisions as a leader. His Vision incorporated the ramifications of the past and corrected the nation’s course for the future.
Lincoln was elected to a second term as president. In that inaugural address, he said he wanted “malice toward none” and “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” This reflects great Leadership in action, and it’s an indicator of the quality of his Vision. Unfortunately, Lincoln didn’t live to see the ultimate results of his actions. He was shot five days after the end of the Civil War; he died the following morning.
Like Lincoln, every one of us has had to overcome obstacles in our own way. We’ve all had to learn to talk or walk. We’ve all met challenges in daily life such as completing a project, running a race, finishing school or pursuing a career. Every one of us has a potential for greatness, just like Abraham Lincoln. It’s up to us to find the greatness within ourselves – to adopt and hone the traits of Leadership: Vision, Influence and Strength.
What does it take to be a Transformational Leader? You know what I’m talking about – that one in a million, riveting presence. I’m talking about the kind of person who enters the room and the very air around them scintillates with excitement. Heads turn. People are drawn in as if by some gravitational force, and it’s clear to everyone in the room who’s got control of the situation.
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