How to Move any Leadership Aspiration to Reality
Aspiration is the beginning of leadership.
Clarify leadership’s 3 aspirations:
- Personal growth: Who do you aspire to become?
- Talent development: How will you develop yourself and others?
- Leadership achievement: What do you aspire to achieve?
Step toward reality by defining aspiration.
Becoming an aspirational leader:
#1. Choose learning.
Know-it-alls repeat the past because they do what they’ve always done.
Learning protects you from running in circles.
Constant learning stretches flat circles into upward spirals.
Tip: Rigorous self-reflection enables learning.
#2. Develop grateful dissatisfaction.
Accept where you are – realistic contentment expressed in gratitude. Reach for where you aren’t – discontent with the status quo.
Contentment that justifies apathy violates every aspect of leadership. Leaders are redundant if the present is acceptable.
Aspiration is the difference between healthy contentment and self-affirming apathy.
Aspirational leaders find courage to “not like” the status quo.
Grateful dissatisfaction is the secret to living with aspiration.
#3. Celebrate past success but don’t camp there.
Achievement is the enemy of aspiration when it creates satisfaction.
Commit to progress regardless of achievement.
Today’s question is, “How will we move the ball down the field?” Tomorrow’s question is the same, regardless of yesterday’s progress.
Aspiration focuses on where you’re going, not where you’ve been.
#4. Commit to bring value to others.
Leadership aspiration is about personal development that enables you to bring value to others. If you’re at the center of your aspiration, arrogance pollutes your perspective.
Lousy leaders focus exclusively on PERSONAL achievement.
Aspirational leaders commit to make the world better for others.
Self-centered leaders sacrifice the welfare of others for personal advantage. Evaluate your aspiration through the lens of service.
The difference between greed and aspiration is bringing value to others.
What are leadership’s aspirations?
How might leaders turn aspiration to reality?
The Ideal Team Player Self-Assessment Exercise: (Table Group)
6 Strategies for Achieving any Aspiration (Psychcentral)
I found that one of the most helpful posts you’ve done that I’ve read, Dan. Thank you, Michael
Thanks Michael. Much appreciated.
In “food for thoughts” this is a smorgasbord!
Celebrate past success but don’t camp there… in my mind a vital step – the opportunity to enjoy an achievement (even celebrate it for an appropriate moment) then allow it to become a foundation stone as we continue building.
Thanks Ken. This one is a challenge for those of us who like to demonize the past in order to motivate change. The trouble is, when we demonize the past we demotivate the people who built it.
I find it’s easy to go too far in either direction. too much celebration = apathy. too little celebration = discouragement.
One suggestion is to celebrate progress not attainment, that way we won’t think we’ve arrived.
This post is great. And the questions raised here are more for just leadership aspirations, but LIFE aspirations! Love it!
Thanks Stacy. Be well.
Dan, your posts are always so timely. You speak of making things better for others, not being selfish, and not promoting your own individual successes. I completely agree that leadership is about others and not one’s self.
In this challenging time, we must be mindful of the struggles being endured by others, help where you can, and reinforce the circle of giving (if you can). Help others focus on the good people are displaying with random acts. They are unifying our country, organizations, and communities. Leadership begins with the individual.
Leadership aspiration can be just to lift up your neighbor, family, colleagues, or or community.
Thanks Kishla. Your insight that aspiration includes small acts of kindness for people near us helps prevent us from thinking aspiration some BIG thing OUT THERE. No, aspiration is also about the small thing at hand.
Hey Dan, really enjoyed your post today. Aspiration is a key part in maintaining motivation, and the guidance you offer here regarding how to approach and define the subject really leaves an impression. Before I read through this discussion, I used to feel as if an aspiration was essentially just some enhanced goal that was supposed to serve as a primary motivator to some short-term goal or objective. But now I look at leadership aspiration much differently. I see it as applying to much more that short term goals or individual interests. As you illustrate, aspiration can take many forms and encompasses others outside yourself, and I can imagine that understanding those qualities can really benefit one and their peers. I would guess that companies, groups, conglomerates, or what-have-you that have excellent leadership aspiration never stop growing, never stop learning, communicate effectively, and achieve more compared to those that do not. Becoming static seems dangerous, and it can happen so quickly and easily that you do not even know what happened.
The four steps you discuss on becoming an aspirational leader are also awesome. I would say that I have a favorite but all four are so good, open minded, and selfless that I simply cannot choose. Number 1 and Number 4 really stick out to me since I feel like many times these attributes are so rare in business leadership right now. But that also made me wonder if I, as an aspirational leader, would struggle with Numbers 2 and 3. Sometimes people do like to dwell in the past and the warmth their historic victories bring them but you are absolutely right, those achievement can’t serve as some eternal reference to justify present apathy. I love that point, and I feel like that’s a dangerous path many, including myself, have gone down before. It kills critical thinking and open learning on new subjects.
Thanks ABeermann. “Never stop learning. Never stop growing.” Those words speak to me.
Personally, I believe our attitude about learning reveals if we have aspiration. Someone who is not interested in learning is already stuck.
I like ABeermann, never stop learning and growing! We become stagnant if chose not to enhance our knowledge and attributes, time does not stand still neither should we!
Seek the fulfillment and ” let the cup runneth over”, life continues when we feed it!
Thanks Tim… “my cup runneth over!” Love it. If we pour enough in our own cup, we will have something to share with others.
My favorite line in your post Dan is…. “Aspirational leaders find courage to “not like” the status quo.” It reminds of the saying – “change before you are forced to because change will happen with or without your permission.” This is what aspirational leaders do – they innovate – they don’t imitate.
Thanks Carolyn. Nice… “they innovate – they don’t imitate.” … !!
Hi Dan, if “Leaders are redundant if the present is acceptable”, where does that leave leaders whose sole purpose in life is to enforce, drive and demand exact, precise and total obedience to the rules, requirements and procedures? In the place where the present is not merely acceptable, but the pinnacle of perfection and the acme of all this is right and proper, where does that leave a leader?
Thanks Mitch. It seems contradictory to the term lead when we make it exclusively about the present.
Perhaps leaders who don’t lead are redundant. 🙂
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Hello Dan! Thank you for sharing such a meaningful and inspirational post. I appreciate the emphasis on learning and self-reflection as a means of becoming an effective leader. Recently, I conducted an informational interview with a local maternal and child health leader where I asked about previous leadership-related mistakes. The main thing she expressed was failing to recognize and learn from community leaders that came before her efforts. Often the main characteristic of a leader is visionary, someone who has an idea or mission. However, I believe that being a visionary is merely not enough to serve as an effective leader. To your point, it is important to step away from the “know it all” mindset and transform leadership into lifelong learning. Your narrative of manifesting leadership deeply aligns with the foundation of maternal and child health leadership competencies. You noted that one must start off with personal growth, then develop talent in themself and others, and finally cultivate leadership achievement. Based on the maternal and child health leadership competencies, the “self” is the inner circle, which is within the “others” circle, and the outer circle is the “wider community”. The first few competencies focus on personal development, which includes expanding MCH knowledge, understanding ethics, and practicing self-reflection. The “others” competencies focus on enhancing communication and fostering conflict resolution skills. Finally, the “wider community” circle focuses on promoting social change through policy and utilizing systems thinking. Within the realm of public health, discussion of leadership emphasizes the importance of designing effective initiatives, engaging communities, and improving policies. However, it is important to equally focus on the individual skills and experiences needed to develop leadership through personal development. My favorite quote from this post is “Aspiration focuses on where you’re going, not where you’ve been.” Promoting impactful social change is a daily process that steadily evolves as our society shifts and grows in time. True leaders focus on using each day as a new day to become a better self and create a better world.
Thank you for this one Dan! I love the ones that are practical like this and I can go back and reflect on the questions and thoughts so I can immediately apply it!
1. I appreciate the metaphor of the spiral staircase. People may often feel like they are going around in circles with their life; while learning doesn’t always prevent you from being put in a similar position you’ve faced before, you will have a new perspective of the situation, and you can make different choices.
2&3. I would add to this that if you allow yourself to “camp” in old success, you will also allow yourself to camp in your failures. Neither of these are productive.
4. I do agree that poor leadership focuses solely on personal achievement. It is a leader’s job to bring a team to victory, not to exploit the team to bring personal victory. This is a very quick way to lose morale and hurt everyone’s progress in the long run. I found two main ways to place value in my staff, when I have been in management: creating incentives, so that they feel the reward of meeting challenges, and creating a pathway to growth for them within the company. Fostering their careers and advocating for them helped them feel that their personal growth and value was just as important as my own. Even when I didn’t want to “lose” a good employee to another department or a higher rank, it was the better decision to let them move up rather than keeping them where they were for my own benefit.
Additionally, leading by example, and pursuing my own goals showed them that they can do the same. This is how I view turning aspirations into reality.
In the bonus material article you listed, “6 Strategies for Achieving any Aspiration,” they listed “being strategic about support,” and particularly that of asking for help. I think it is important for a leader to acknowledge where they need help from their team. A leader who pretends they can do it all without their team is only pretending to be a leader. Asking for their help and utilizing their strengths also fosters value.
Thank you for this, the observations and guidance are practical and simplistic yet when you read this you realize might not be easy for every leader to achieve regardless of the importance of this foundation. I especially like the line “Accept where you are – realistic contentment expressed in gratitude”. Reminds me of the significance to remain humbled and grounded.
Hi Mr. Dan. My name is Nicole one of several Tulane students that have joined your blog. Thank you for allowing us to learn from you and to share with your followers our views on your daily topics. Today’s topic, Aspirational Leader, interests me because it is something that I inspire to become one day.
Aspiration is defined as a desire or ambition for which someone is motivated to work very hard. More importantly, you have touched on some critical points on being an aspirational leader.
Choose Learning, something no one should stop doing. Every day allows all of us to learn something different from someone else. Forcing yourself to let others take the lead will allow you to see the world or a subject matter from another person’s perspective. I do this all the time in group sessions in class. I also find it educational to explore going to the company’s conventions and in-services.
I also like the comment “ commit to progress regardless of the achievement” under number 3. This is a comment that I live by every day. I tell my closest associates that as long as I see myself progressing in the world and is not stagnated I am ok.
Commit to bringing value to others, is an important point as a leader. Shining the light on someone else’s achievement is what builds a team and allows you to have followers. Making a person feel appreciated and have self-worth in something that they have done goes a long way.
I think this post has highlighted some great insight on leadership. I really appreciate the steps you have laid out here. Each of them really carries their own weight and are so important in becoming a great leader. I have always seen aspirations as mini-step goals, whether that be in a job, love, or family. These can be big or small, just depending on what your end goals are. It is important for every leader to have these not only for themselves, but also for their teams. The more people an aspiration includes, the more people work towards it, and the better off the company, group or organization will be.
Leaders can take these aspirations and turn them into reality by following the steps you have laid out here. I think that your step number 3 is especially motivating. Looking forward is the key when it comes to accomplishing future aspirations for yourself and your group. So, it is really important to not dwell on the past and to instead look forward to find new ways of bettering the community and group. Past success can be a great motivator, I for one like to chase the high of having a “win” but it is important not to become comfortable living in the past.
As an aspiring leader myself, I found this post to be incredibly insightful and informative. In particular, point numbers 1, 3, and 4 really resonated with me. I believe the key to any successful leader is constant learning and never feeling like you know everything. In any industry, innovation is constantly happening; thus, if a leader thinks he knows everything, then the company or organization is doomed because the leader needs to be constantly learning to win against competitors. Additionally, it is important to celebrate successes but not become too satisfied or arrogant in the process. A leader must constantly be improving oneself in order to compete with their competitors. Lastly, I found your point number four to be to most insightful because the best leaders are those who bring value to other people in order to make the world a better place. The Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, came to my mind when I read this statement because they created a technology to make information accessible to the world’s population. They are excellent leaders because they created value for other people rather then just capitalizing off of other people. These founder obtained inordinate amounts of success because their mission was service based rather than for personal achievement. Therefore, the main goal of a leader in any sector should be to improve the lives of others rather than chase success for personal greed. The wonderful part of focusing on service, rather than personal achievement, is that those leaders are often much more respected by people and often reach the heights of success because they were doing things for the right reasons.
Dream big until your going to have no idea what you are capable of.