Written by Sebastian Geese for 55th issue of ESTIEM Magazine

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about leadership? Are you foremost thinking about skills and techniques to influence others to do what you want them to do and how to make them follow you? While this is, unfortunately, how many people interpret “Leadership Skills“ trainings. The true meaning of leadership is empowering people to unfold their great potential in their work and life. That being said, there is a great deal of responsibility in leadership due to the great impact one can have on others‘ lives.

Have you ever thought about the fact that leading others brings a great deal of responsibility to do what is right? In the definitions there is a subtle, but important difference between leadership and management. Leadership is concerned with doing the right thing, while management aims to do things right. In order to unfold one’s full potential, one needs both a leader’s ability to envision the right direction as well as a manager’s skills to get things done efficiently.

In his bestselling book ”The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness“, Stephen Covey populates that leaders need four important characteristics: Vision, passion, discipline and conscience!

Vision describes a person’s ability to see what might be possible at one point, but not imaginable yet. Take a moment to think about visionary minds like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. One might question some business attitudes or motives of theirs, but with no doubt they had and have visionary ideas for products of the future. Elon Musk has nothing less in mind than making mobility independent of oil and enabling mankind to live on Mars. Sounds outright insane, doesn’t it? But would that not have been the same reaction when 50 years ago someone would have told you about their idea to develop a smartphone?

Passion is the fire you feel burning inside yourself when you engage with something that you truly want. It is that one thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going, seemingly without any effort. The great entrepreneurs in the previous paragraph did not get where they are by just being smarter or working harder, but by being passionate about what they did and do. Success and financial wealth is only a side effect, because…

Discipline comes automatically. Discipline is what it takes to make your vision come true. None of the life changing inventions of the past have come easy and they all required a lot of hard work to overcome a great deal of frustration and keep on going against all odds. But it becomes much easier, if you are passionate about your vision.

Conscience is what can separate the great from the good. It does probably not diminish a leader’s qualities if business success is the only objective. However, leaders should also be aware of their potential to contribute to a greater good and to have a positive impact on many. Götz Werner is probably one of the lesser known business leaders of the last years. As founder, co-owner and advisory board member of one of Germany’s biggest drugstore chains, dm, he established a company where profit is considered a lost opportunity and whose current CEO mentions ”profit minimisation“ as their main objective.

On a final note, it is important to realise that you first need to lead yourself before leading others. How do you consider it possible to give others a purpose, inspire them into a certain direction and empower them to connect to their true passion if you haven’t mastered it for yourself? Having reached that level of maturity and having realised the impact of your role as a leader, you can truly get a fire burning in a person’s heart. I want to close with a quote from the Spider-man movies when Ben Parker tells his nephew Peter while dying that ”With great power comes great responsibility“.

This article was written under the initiative of the IEM Caring Foundation. The foundation brings together people who want to lead change towards a caring society. Conscious Leadership is one of the foundation’s five Fields of Impact. The other four Fields of Impact are Social Entrepreneurship, Equal Opportunities, United Europe and Strong Sustainability. Go to www.iemcaring.org if you want to find out more!