“I want to make an impact and move society forward”. This caring and bold desire is what lots of us, restless minds, share as driven individuals and members of society. But what does it actually mean to make an impact? How can we contribute to the advancement of society? In a fragmenting world, amidst all the geopolitical instability, economic turmoil, climate crisis and societal challenges, where can we even begin?
This blog article stems from a shorter post that I wrote at the beginning of the year in the group dedicated to the participants of the Global Leaders Fellowship by Nebula, reflecting on the first part of the program and wrapping up our varied and inspiring sessions. So let’s dive deeper and see how we can start addressing the definitely not simple questions above and begin our journey towards being a leader and making an impact.
Defining leadership as a way of living
Not surprisingly, it turns out that individuals that take action and make an impact tend to be otherwise known as leaders. But what is leadership in the first place? We began by interpreting leadership as a way of being. When we talk about leadership, we talk about achieving greatness by bringing out the greatness in other people. Leaders inspire themselves and others to achieve greatness. So, how do we accomplish such a feat? The answer lies in developing the fundamental virtues of leaders:
The essence of leadership:
- magnanimity, striving towards great things,
- and fraternal humility, serving other people with a noble heart, inspiring them to become leaders themselves.
The foundations of leadership:
- self-knowledge or fundamental humility, understanding ourselves, our own traits;
- courage, having the capacity to stay the course;
- prudence or practical wisdom, grasping reality and making decisions that fit that reality;
- will or self-mastery, directing passions and injecting our energy into attaining the mission at hand;
- and justice, comprehending that an individual is a social being, and acting with empathy, integrity... giving everyone their due.
Virtues rest upon the highest standards of human nature and are habits that can be acquired through practice. Thus leadership is not about rank nor status; it is about helping people grow, and it can be lived by every one of us. Leaders are not born, they are trained.
Making an impact: why do we need to ask "why"?
We concluded that leading and generating an impact involves creating positive change, at any scale - of course, the bigger the better -, but to discover our unique way to contribute to society we need to ask “why” to influence. And what does this mean? Here is where intellectual life appears: we need the “why”, the reflection, to challenge our convictions and to attain clarity of vision. It is through this critical and reflective position that we deepen our understanding of the world and hence acquire more wisdom, enabling us to lead more meaningful lives and to direct endeavours with resilience.
Self-awareness as a key enabler
And this reflective position is where self-awareness comes into play: in order to drive the positive impact that we wish for, it is essential to be aware of who we truly are and what our context is. This is where we have to begin. But how can we develop self-awareness? Some pre-eminent and effective methods include practising mindfulness to be fully present and focused, keeping a reflective journal, training to be a coach and being coached, completing personality assessments and engaging in structured peer feedback. Basically, treating ourselves like a project, with a learning mindset, and with our purpose focused on others.
Credibility as a requirement
At the same time, we contemplated the importance that credibility, the quality of being trusted and believed in, possesses in connecting with people, and in being able to inspire and make the desired impact: we have to meet people where they are, not where we are. And what are the predictors of credibility? Self-knowledge, authenticity, integrity and vulnerability are at the heart, but a list of chief notable qualities also involves competence, sound judgement, relational sensitivity and likeability. Concisely, credibility revolves around leading self, leading others, leading purposefully and navigating group dynamics.
We considered as well that as an individual climbs the professional credibility ladder, mobilising and motivating people to solve problems - where emotional intelligence becomes crucial - there are almost no right or wrong answers. There are options and choices. Skill is in the ability to weigh these options, and for this reason, leadership is, by and large, also an art!
The art of being a leader in the public and social spheres
This has been a really high-level summary of the insightful and interesting discussions that we had during the first module of the Global Leaders Fellowship (GLF). At present, we have already finished our enlightening second module, the What - related to “what” to influence - and have just successfully launched the third one, the How. I must say that I am even more energised! I love how all sessions and modules are connected and gain more meaning as the program progresses. Do you agree with these ideas? Would you add anything else to this wrap-up?
As a last note, I would like to share a transformative book suggested during an independent Nova session about leadership and growth mindsets held last November. It reviews some of the concepts that we have touched so far, and I have been finding it useful as a tool to self-reflect: “Centered Leadership”, by Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie.
💡 And if you wonder what is next to come in the GLF program, are curious about the tools needed to become a global leader in the public and social spheres, or share the same drive of making an impact and moving society forward, you might want to take a deeper look at the Global Leaders fellowship on Public and Social impact, where all these reflections took place
Looking forward to our upcoming sessions! 🚀