Once upon a time, leadership was all about management.
Management, in turn, has been all about titles, stability and positional authority.
Leadership is different—it’s about influence, adaptability and moral authority. Managers are given responsibility; leaders earn respect.
Moral authority is a sort of social heft, a sense of wisdom and experience that encourages other people to put their trust in you. A leader with moral authority consistently demonstrates character, courage and competence.
Here’s what that looks like:
Competence is the ability to lead well. Making smart decisions, knowing your people, understanding your field and committing to personal growth are all examples of competence. Leaders who demonstrate that they know what they’re doing—and that they learn from their mistakes—establish themselves as a leader worth following.
Courage is moving forward in the face of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the presence of mind to act when afraid. Every leader needs courage to put forth a vision, make hard decisions and enact difficult changes.
Character is being bigger on the inside than the outside. Leaders of character know that who they are is more than what they achieve. Character is a commitment to continual growth in the areas of integrity, authenticity, humility and love.
Ultimately, you can’t grant yourself moral authority; only others can do that. However, you can strive for it—and you should. In a shifting world, leaders with moral authority become a foundation for others to build upon.
Consistency is the key. In a world where we face daily change, our people are looking for a leader who can provide stability. A leader must be flexible enough to change while being trustworthy enough to provide hope. Flexibility and trust are achieved through consistency.
John Maxwell is the founder of John Maxwell Co., John Maxwell Team, Equip, and John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, and is the author of “Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace.”