Last week, my grandson asked me to provide him some information on my military service during the Vietnam Conflict Era--for a report he and his classmates were engaged in to recognize those who have served their country on Veterans Day.
The life changing experiences our men and women in uniform have encountered during their active duty have given them an opportunity to learn and demonstrate effective leadership principles and to better understand what is important to them and those they serve.
What is the meaning of life?
Our life signature is the tracing of the talents we are given and how we express them in our lives. We are all blessed with a few God-given signature talents. A big part of your life is discovering what these are, then utilizing and applying them to the best of your ability.
"No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him." James Russell Lowell
To clearly define your areas of brilliance, ask yourself a few questions and take some self-assessments. What do you do effortlessly? What do you do that other people find difficult?
Where will you be at your most powerful?
How you can make an immediate impact?
How you can win as a leader?
For example, my top two StandOut strength roles are "Equalizer" and "Pioneer" because I love order but thrive in the unknown---an explorer, yet I am grounded in intelligent argument. I know how to articulate my values and guiding principles clearly and concisely (nobody has to guess) and this makes my relationships straightforward and simple. The greatest value I bring to my followers is: I won't allow us to charge ahead without proper preparation.
As a structured and optimistic leader, I inspire followers to bet against the law of averages to achieve higher and sustained performance. My career or life signature is bringing order to opportunity. An organized trailblazer, I have forged ahead with a clear purpose, and with confidence that comes from knowing that my "supply lines" would not be broken.
Great leaders can be born into a culture of leaders--the Kennedys, for example--but birthright is no guarantee that someone will become the real deal. Real leaders are made; they learn through trial and error on the job and are nurtured and developed through time.
Honing those leadership skills can happen outside the workplace, too. One of the many leadership "laboratories" helpful to emerging leaders is their college fraternity. Serving your fraternity brothers and university community in different roles affords numerous types of leadership training. You learn quickly how to deal with adversity and constructive criticism, as well as how to improve, grow and handle increased responsibility.
After I graduated from the University of Florida (as an officer in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Conflict Era), the country and my fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, was experiencing a segregation versus integration conflict. While on active duty, within a 70 officer leadership class, the first African-American member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and I became good friends as we two fraternity brothers competed for the "top gun" [Honor Graduate] of our leadership class. He later became Bill Clinton's presidential campaign manager and, after they won the election, he was the Secretary of the Commerce Dept. in the Clinton Administration. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown died in an airplane crash in Europe while serving his country. The Ron Brown Scholar Program today awards undergraduate college scholarships to academically talented, highly motivated, African-American high school seniors.
True leaders put service above self; empower, don't control; and serve rather than demand to be served. To develop your own servant leadership potential, practice the art of sacrifice for others rather than thinking of having subordinates or followers. Champion your team, troops or staff by always helping and promoting them. Set the most enviable example and let your actions demonstrate what serving others truly means.
Real leadership is not about amassing personal power; it's about the ability to unleash the strengths of others and in turn create a culture of success.
That and other military and corporate leadership experience built on my signature talent to create order while pushing beyond the boundaries of current understanding.
Once you take the StandOut self-assessment, you too will see where your "ideal career" has shown itself and allowed you to acquire the self-knowledge that will continually lead toward expressing your desired life signature.
For a directory of self-assessments, go to: http://www.SelfAssessmentCenter.com
John Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership (ebook at $2.99)
John G. Agno: Can't Get Enough Leadership: Self Coaching Secrets (paperback at $28.99)