Updated: May 7
by Dirk Coetsee | 12 Mar 2019
‘Leadership is a potent combination of character and strategy’ – General Norman Schwarzkopf
Leadership has long fallen into the category of the enigmatic. It is no longer the case considering the ‘deep dive’ neuroscientists, psychologists and industrial psychologists have taken into understanding the brain and human behaviour in general.
For those that have a deep and driving desire to understand themselves better volumes of highly beneficial research are available to you. How willing you are to seek for and apply the infinite amount of knowledge out there is dependent upon your priorities, your ‘grit’ and your level of desire to personally transform and be impactful in this world.
Most of all a strong belief in your own abilities to become a legendary business leader is a basic requirement for the alchemy from follower to a leader to take place.
The human nature guru Robert Greene describes a strong character as follows:
“Strong character has a tensile quality like a good piece of metal – it can give and bend but still retains its overall shape and never breaks”
A character is who you really are, not what you want others to think of you. Who you truly are is especially revealed under the most challenging circumstances. How your investors, co-founders, employees and clients view you is highly dependent upon your actions during times of business crisis, failure or when you as an entrepreneur are faced with turbulent personal circumstances.
The ability to authentically and empathetically (towards yourself and others) take a stand for your beliefs, admit (to yourself most of all) to your mistakes, rectify them (the highest and truest form of an apology) within times of strife and difficulty leads to a strong and unbreakable character.
Through this writing you are strongly urged to reflect on the fact that a strong character will not fall from the sky and simply be bestowed upon you, instead, a strong character, akin to steel, is moulded and shaped by fire meaning that your character is mostly shaped by challenging times.
As the late master poet Leonard Cohen said –
‘There is a crack in everything that is where the light seeps in’
Nothing is perfect and when you truly learn from failures and mistakes your wounds can become blessings, your tests can become testimonies and you can lead others to achieve the same.
Those that have a slight and very determined smile on their face and maintain belief and even dramatically increase their levels of performance the moment they recognize that they have arrived within a highly challenging space are the ones that have trained for that exact moment.
The Navy Seals say:
“You do not rise to the challenge you fall to your level of training”
All external information gathered within each moment enters the brain and is processed through the Amygdala first – that part of the brain that provides housing for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Information is first filtered through your very own doubts, fears and insecurities.
If you have not worked on your own fears diligently and instilled habitual mechanisms of effective action triggered by fear your re-actions of lack of action (procrastination) will not be optimal at all. ‘Grit’ is born at the intersection of passion and perseverance and can be trained. Bravery can be trained. Leadership can be trained. Character although influenced by genetics can be trained.
All tools to succeed at the aforementioned subjects are within us all, in a lot of cases lying dormant and anxiously awaiting your increased levels of awareness which will empower you to use the tools required effectively.
As a practical example I coach my ‘Peak Performance’ clients to train for Grit in the following way – Choose a day of the week when you are especially tired and not in the greatest of moods force yourself to the gym and train the toughest muscle group for you (usually legs) and where you normally do three sets of squats do seven and make those sets harder than before in every way.
Or again choose a day of the week again where you are very tired and instead of taking a plunge onto the couch to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever it is, go and hike, a long tough hike that will really test you.
It does sound harsh but you will thank yourself when the tough times occur and they will, that you have willingly trained yourself for grit.
On to the subject of Strategy which forms a potent combination with character and results in Leadership.
Dictionary.com defines strategy as:
A plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.
For a strategy to be effective a basic requirement of many requirements is that a clear and highly specific end vision and/or goal, and/or result must be defined. Visions, goals or desired results are often vaguely defined because the often subconscious fear of clearly defining our failures by setting clear and measurable goals plagues us.
The mind struggles with finding solutions, answers and strategies when vague goals are set. It is also very hard to retain focus on anything that is very vague. As the importance of an effective plan to achieve your well-defined Vision and goals cannot be overstated I strongly recommend getting expert help to facilitate a future session.
Once the desired end result, goals and vision is crystal clear we can ‘reverse engineer’ an effective plan that can actualize our dreams. We need to create a metric system that constantly, consistently and visibly measures our progress and success of our plan. The metrics will notify us of challenges and will signal a need for adjustments within our strategy.
The very good news emanating from this article is that anyone can be a legendary leader should they not only sincerely wish to be a leader but also take effective action on becoming one. The starting point is to consistently and constantly build and mould an unshakeable character and add a clear strategy for your personal life and your business.