Leadership womanSomeone asked me the other day, when did I first realize that I was a leader.  I had to stop and think … and realized that I had always “imagined” myself to be a leader.

I remember my first grade teacher talking to my parents at a parent-teacher conference, and stating, “Deborah is a leader.”  Thinking back on that feedback, I think that my teacher was using her best diplomacy to let my parents know that I was one of those kids that was inclined to influence or tell others what they should be doing.  At least she didn’t say “bossy,” but in retrospect, I think she was trying to get the same message across.

Regardless, I went forth, from that time, believing I was leader, and was ready to challenge anyone who might dare to question that narrative.

However, even though I was equipped with that mindset and narrative, the first time I realized that I was a leader, was much later in my life.

I had been hired to start-up a new department within an organization.  I was able to recruit a winning team by inspiring them with a vision and a value proposition based on the difference we could make to our organization and our customers.  During this time, my thinking, my efforts and my passion transitioned from “ME to WE.”

And believe me, it was a material life transition. In the past, I had worked to validate myself, who I was, and what I was capable of achieving.  With this transition, I realized  that I had moved past thinking “How can I be successful?” or “How can I be the best?” to “How can I support my team to be the best they can be?”

I small headshot of Deborah Bateman.Deborah Bateman brings over 40 years of experience in business, philanthropy, and the boardroom. She inspires others to seek their truth, open their hearts and minds, and experience the power and abundance life has to offer when lived authentically.

When I realized that I cared about my team members and their success, when I realized that I could use my gift of passion and positive energy to inspire and motivate others, and when I cared enough to give my team inspiring feedback on what they are doing or how they can improve … it was THEN – I knew I was a leader. Quite simply, leadership is not about oneself … it’s all about the people we lead.

But in order to be that effective leader, there are traits that must be effused.  From my perspective, two of the most important traits are “Vision” and “Energy.”

Leader in businessA leader has to have a “vision” in order to inspire. Personally, I believe that great leaders are focused on where they are going, not where they have been.  As I coach others, I love to illustrate this perspective by challenging them to “look at life through the windshield – not the rearview mirror.” After all, the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because – what’s happened in your past is not nearly as important as what’s in your future.

I also believe that leaders must “set the tone.” They are an energy and inspirational source to their people/teams.  It is the leader’s responsibility to model and bring the “can-do” attitude and the positive perspectives and energy.  Part of “setting the tone” might also include providing the appropriate recognition, at the right time, that helps others to create their own energy.  Without reservation, let your team members know how you feel about them, live a life of gratitude and take care of and appreciate your team members — thank them for a job well done, pass credit along freely to others, and provide public praise.

All that said, there are many other traits that a leader must embody. For me, being a leader means being authentic. It means that I can embrace my managerial courage, and make the tough decision, while moving forward and being accountable.  But it also means that I can be vulnerable. It means not being afraid to make and learn from my mistakes. It means that I own my leadership for the purpose of creating a winning team and using all my efforts to ensure that every team member is able to use their inherent gifts and measure up to their potential.

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”

— Babe Ruth

What are the traits that you possess that have enabled you to be an effective leader?  Are you leading authentically, and being true to your own personal values?  What leaders inspired and influenced your leadership style? I would love to see your thoughts and comments. Please leave your comments hear or feel free to reach out and contact me with your story.