Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “the leader’s role is the define reality, then give hope.”
In that statement, Napoleon captures the essence of sustainable leadership — balance. Balance between good and evil, upside and downside, opportunity and risk and happiness and anguish. The balance, though, is difficult for leaders to maintain, especially during challenging times. It’s too easy to sink into the survival mode, living in the perilous moment of reality. Hope seems too expensive to invest in.
Of course, this approach will only cause you to lose followers as they wear out and wither away from your influence. In my experience, there are three different areas of leadership development that can help you achieve this balance and lead during good times as well as bad.
Remember the 3 R’s of school? Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic (OK, they still called it the 3 R’s). My 3 R’s are just as foundational for the modern leader:
#1: Resilience: The leader must have a fortified sense of confidence. She must be able to face fears and frame criticism into motivation. The leader must follow something greater than himself. The leader must cultivate faith in her team and the shared vision of the group.
#2: Relationships: The leader must cultivate relationships by helping everyone in her path. Leaders don’t manage relationships, they cultivate them. It’s too easy for a reality-driven leader to treat employees and customers in a transactional way. You will be remembered years from now based on the investments you did or didn’t make in relationships during your darkest hours.
#3: Responsibility: The leader is responsible for her group, down to the person. He embraces a do-no-harm credo and strives for his group to achieve something truly significant. To the enlightened leader, responsibility isn’t about doing the right thing – it’s about doing a great thing. By tuning her psyche to seek out areas where the group can make a difference, the leader lifts her team up into a place of purpose. This creates a sustainable sense of enthusiasm for the entire group, including its leader.
Read: Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman for unique insights into the importance of creating a positive mood state.