The Look of Leadership: What Do Leaders See?


One of the most common myths about leadership is that leaders are born; not made. While some people may be predisposed to leadership due to innate personality traits, we all have the capacity to lead. And like just about any other skill, leadership can be developed and mastered. It starts with a choice – a choice to actively engage in the activities found in effective leaders. To become a leader, you must do what leaders do.

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some of the traits exhibited by strong leaders. Today, I’ll start by exploring some of the things that leaders see. Here are five things that catch a leader’s eye.

1. A bright future. Leaders are optimists. They choose to believe the best days lie ahead for their business and the people they serve. This vision is so compelling that they are driven to make this possible future come to pass. They are drawn to, and seek out, others who share that vision. Ask a leader what the future holds and they’ll tell you “something good.”

2. A way forward. Focused on attaining the most desirable future possible, leaders are always seeking the path that will take them there. Faced with any number of decisions every day, they make choices that present them with the best chance of moving forward. Ask a leader why they made any particular choice and they’ll tell you it was the choice that moved things in the right direction.

3. Opportunity in adversity. Of course, things don’t always go as planned. Circumstances change – for any number of reasons. But setbacks don’t represent failure to the effective leader. They represent learning opportunities. They provide valuable lessons that help them prepare for even larger challenges down the road. And they often force a different way of looking at things. Problems can lead to new discoveries – discoveries that could only be made under adverse conditions. Ask a leader why they remain calm and focused during a crisis and they’ll tell you it’s because they’re focused on the upside.

4. Their own limitations. Leaders are confident in their own abilities; but are aware of the limits of those abilities. They don’t pretend to be perfect, or to have skills that they don’t. False bravado or pretention hold no value for the leader. In fact, they can prove disastrous. So leaders maintain a realistic vision of just what they bring to the table – and what they do not. Ask a leader to describe their strengths and weaknesses and they’ll tell you the truth.

5. Potential in others. Armed with a focus on the best possible future, and an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, leaders are always on the lookout for others who can help move things forward. They seek out others who possess skills that enhance the team and make the organization stronger. Often, leaders see potential in you before you see it yourself. Ask a leader why they push you out of your comfort zone and they’ll tell you it’s because you are more capable than you think.

There’s definitely something different about an effective leader. They look different. That’s because they see things differently.

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