Defining Leadership: Insights from FCN Leaders on What Makes Leaders Exceptional

by Terica Scott

What is leadership? Leadership, pronounced, “ lead·er·ship[ˈlēdərˌSHip]” is a noun that means “the action of leading a group of people or an organization”, according to Oxford Dictionary.

· What makes a great leader?

· What sets exceptional leaders apart from other leaders?

No matter how you define leadership, it is great leadership that shapes our lives in many ways.

Not all leaders are effective or inspirational.

What makes an excellent leader in one person’s eyes may be different that what another person believes a great leader should be, do, or cultivate in others.

One thing that I have learned so far in my personal and professional journey is that great leadership matters—and exceptional leaders are not born that way–they are shaped, created, and inspired to become great.

Leadership—whether it has been serving in a leadership role or studying the qualities of exceptional leaders in history—has always fascinated me. I have made it my life’s work to lead through service to others and supporting great causes that improve lives. Since I can remember, I have led some kind of leadership role. As a small child, my playmates elected me as President of our playground social club. In grade school, middle, and high school, I served on student government and school leadership councils. In college, I was a Presidential Scholar and worked on a strategic projects with the President of the school.

In my career both paid and unpaid, I have sought leadership opportunities —large and small.

I have founded organizations, served on non-profit boards, worked on national, state, and local initiatives alongside other servant leaders.

Leadership motivates me. I am grateful for all of the inspiring leaders who have shaped my personal and professional development.

For me, one of the most significant aspects of leadership is “guidance” and influencing positive and meaningful action in others. As we close out 2017 and look to 2018, I wanted to the 2017 FCN leadership team to share their insights and guidance to our readers on leadership as federal communicators.

Here is what they shared:

Jacinda Gill, Information Technology Specialist with the Law Library of Congress has been inspired by leadership by example. She shared a quote by Walt Whitman as one of her favorite leadership quotes, “We convince by our presence.”

Servant leaders are able to develop personal character traits and habits that are exemplary.

They are not perfect or “demi-Gods” but they have mastered themselves in such a way that they are able to lead by example. Leading by example is essentially “walking the talk”.

How do exemplary leaders learn to how to consistently show others great examples to follow?

Many leaders have taught us how to lead by example such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi.

However, one habit that I feel sets exemplary leaders apart from other leaders is their ability to create a clear picture of possibility– beyond what we currently see, do, understand, feel, or may experience.

In addition, leadership is perseverance—but not only persistence to reach a goal— diligent, consistent, effort to be effective, spark positive change, and motivate greatness in others.

”I am a disciple of perseverance, said Josie Anderson, National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Digital Media Manager. Josie was recently selected as FCN’s first Officer of the Year by the 2017 FCN Leadership Team for her spirit of “perseverance” as a servant leader throughout the year.

Grit, determination, resilience, and courage are all exceptional attributes of great leaders. However, the point that stands out to me in her affirmation about leadership is “disciple”. To be a disciple, one must serve something greater than themselves.

Great leaders are exceptional because they are effective followers in service to a higher, collective purpose and goal. Moniqua Roberts-Gray, Deputy Chief of Media Relations in the Public Information Office at the US. Census Bureau reminds us that, “In order to lead, one must follow.”

Effective leaders have the “ability to motivate and inspire their colleagues while fostering relationships built on mutual respect and trust” she feels.

Respect and trust are keystone qualities of great leaders. True guidance and direction begins with respect and trust. I have observed many leaders at work and in the community rise to great prominence because of their abilities to cultivate mutual trust and respect among those they lead day to day or inspire from afar.

2017 FCN Chair, Christine Stevenson feels that great leaders “always treat people with respect, even when you disagree with them” and this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” helps her to remember to be respectful. “It’s definitely easier said than done sometimes, she adds.

In summary, I believe that we all have what it takes to become great leaders. Essentially, leadership can be learned. Create a life in which you are surrounded by positive examples of effective leadership and cultivate your ability to exemplify consistent character traits and habits that supports your growth as a leader as well as inspires greatness in others. Rise and lead.

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