The leadership space is a noisy one. There are degrees, courses, seminars, blogs and a list of other things as long as my leg that is meant to help people become better leaders. So I thought “Why not add more noise?” Totally kidding. Becoming a great leader doesn’t begin with how adept you are at influencing others. It doesn’t start when you get a large group of people to accomplish a great task. It should and must be a work that is done in you before it can be done through you. I wrote about this concept in an earlier blog post called: The Mirror Revolution.

If leadership doesn’t begin with the person on the other side of the mirror, it’s a fraud and inauthentic. This disingenuous approach to leadership has brought about the ruination of people, organizations and governments for millenia. It won’t be any different for you or me. Ralph Waldo Emerson was an absolute master of communication and I have a lot of respect for him. He succinctly puts this concept in a simple sentence (of course this is intended to be gender neutral).

Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.

A leader without dignity is a loose cannon. Leadership demands that speech and actions show self-respect, respect for others and an appreciation for the gravity of a situation. Without dignity, you are a disaster waiting to happen…at least for someone else.

In a brief conversation with a friend of mine, 4 other traits surfaced that could be used in addition to dignity in this thought by Emerson in order to have a significant impact as a leader: reputation, legacy, image, integrity

Let not a man guard his reputation, but let his reputation guard him.

At the end of the day, we only have our past to show for us. Our reputation is a collage of our values painted through behavior and actions. It is a public, yet intimate, look into our world view and belief system. Gaining a good reputation begins with doing some quality work in the area of self-awareness and purposeful crafting of your values and what you choose to believe. Choose wisely. Your reputation depends on it!

Let not a man guard his legacy, but let his legacy guard him.

We don’t really have the ability to control what people think and say about us. If you don’t believe that, spend 10 minutes watching an election campaign. When we die, we have even less control over these things. The one thing we are able to do is to create a legacy that continues to speak for us. Self-serving legacies make us look despotic. Other-serving legacies make us look impactful. 

Let not a man guard his image, but let his image guard him.

This isn’t about how expensive your clothes, watches or cars can be. It’s not about how many A-list parties you get invited to. It IS about how you decide to present yourself to the world on a daily basis. Your image is all-encompassing. It includes how you treat those who can’t do anything for you, how you communicate, how you deal with conflict, how you do relationships, etc. It’s the day-to-day way in which you manage yourself, not others.

Let not a man guard his integrity, but let his integrity guard him.

Integrity is born from the intersection of character, discipline and values. Integrity isn’t a tool of convenience that is utilized only in certain situations. If  being a person of integrity isn’t a daily occurrence for you, then your leadership will suffer…along with your reputation, image, legacy and sense of dignity.

I would venture a guess there is at least one person you have met in your life who possesses these 5 traits. Would you want them to lead you? Would you want to follow anyone who didn’t possess these 5 traits? Make sure the person on the other side of the mirror is working on being an impactful leader.