Could you lead like a world leader – even though you’re at the helm of a good team at a mid-size company in a small community?
Yes – and never doubt you have the ability to bring out the best leader in you, no matter where you are in your career!
After all, Zelenskyy did it. Ardern did it. Marin and Biden did it. They’re business and political leaders who got to the top of their game from humble beginnings, according to Zety’s Path to Power: World Leaders’ Careers.
Inspiration from around the globe
Most managers and organizational leaders don’t aspire to be world leaders. But you can get inspiration and successful strategies from unexpected leaders.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. At 17, his first job was on a local comedy team. He also acted in TV shows before becoming a political leader. Now he’s at the helm of his country while it’s at war, gaining world audiences and support for his country.
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Even as she worked her way through politics, she was a volunteer in a New York City soup kitchen. Today, she’s her country’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years and on the cover of international news and fashion magazines.
- Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Just 19 years after she was a bakery cashier, she became the world’s youngest prime minister at the age of 34. Now she’s considered one of the most influential women in the world.
- United States President Joe Biden. His first job: maintenance work so he could pay fees to attend a private high school. After decades in public office, he’s now the oldest U.S. President in history.
Now you can relate! After all, most of us have some retail, manual, volunteer or high school drama class experience in our past.
Despite different paths, the best leaders – including the world leaders here – have a few things in common that helped bring out the best leader in each.
To bring out the best leader in you, focus on:
For some top leaders, the drive to be the best is personal. For others, it’s public – a focus on doing great work for a bigger purpose – perhaps a commitment to community, charity or a higher being.
And not surprisingly, passionate people perform better, according to research from the Harvard Business School. But almost 90% of workers don’t perform up to their potential because they aren’t passionate about it, a Deloitte study found.
Unfortunately, passion doesn’t come naturally. To bring out the best leader in yourself, do a pulse check. Does your work make you feel you want to do it better and help other people do theirs better? That’s passion, and if you don’t feel it, you might want to make adaptations in your career.
The best political leaders care about their citizens. In the business world, the best leaders care about their employees and colleagues, the organizational mission and the success for everyone involved. If you don’t care about the people, process and mission, you likely won’t be able to bring out the best leader in yourself.
But you can practice some “fake until you make it” tactics:
- Focus on who will benefit from the next project, quarter, goal, etc., and
- Notice (and follow) how others show they care – be an active listener and quick to action.
The best leaders aren’t necessarily the most educated in the room. But they almost always have the clearest focus on what’s important.
That’s because they seek clarity in all situations, according to research from author Brendon Burchard in his book, High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way.
A good manager might ask a few clarifying questions before resolving an issue or making a decision. But a manager who works to bring out the best leader in himself or herself will do more to gain clarity.
For instance, you might start every meeting asking, “What’s our intention? And why does it matter?” Then you can get distractions out of the way to focus on what matters – and get the most out of your time in a meeting.
Respect for the law
If you noticed, none of the world leaders mentioned above were revolutionaries. They might have carved their own paths from maintenance sheds, stages and bakeries, but they didn’t cause upheaval to get to the top in leadership.
At the same time, they didn’t always settle for status quo. But they respected and almost always followed the rules and protocols.
Great leaders spearhead worthwhile change, and do it while treating the system and people who established it respectfully. Keep that in mind and practice as you bring out the best leader in yourself: You can rock the boat, but don’t throw anyone overboard. Help steady them.