We love lists. There is something about a top 10 or a top 50 list that draws us in. On Fortune magazine’s recently released list, The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, we find individuals with experience in business, government, religion, philanthropy, acting, education, sports, and activism. A majority are well known and all have made (according to Fortune) meaningful contributions to society.
Like many others, I enjoy reading these types of lists to learn and be inspired. At the same time, I like to use these lists as an impetus to develop my own list of great leaders, made up of individuals who I know personally. I use that list to make sure I let each and every one of them know how I admire them for what they do and who they are.
What do all truly great leaders haven common? They serve others naturally as they connect what they do to who they are. I refer to these leaders as Chiefs. With or without the title, real Chiefs take three steps:
- They choose what they do: Real Chiefs consistently act as servants, they act with disciple through hard work, and they act to create the future.
- They understand who they are: Real Chiefs demonstrate their values by building insight. They are present and focused on the moment at hand, accepting of the world as it is, grateful for all they have in their lives, generous with others, and they are able to be still long enough to hear their own voice.
- They connect what they do with who they are: Real Chiefs are powerful in a way that has nothing to do with their position. Real Chiefs are powerful because they connect what they do to who they are. Have you ever been so involved in a project that you lost all sense of time? Have you felt “in the zone”? Real Chiefs operate in this way on a regular basis.
Of the amazing leaders highlighted in Fortune’s top 50 list, two leaders stand out to me. They are both without fancy titles or large organizations to run, and yet they are true leaders in every sense of the word. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani women’s rights and education activist who began standing up to the Taliban at the tender age of 11, has inspired a worldwide movement to educate children and has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. While less known, Tetiana Chornovol is a Ukranian journalist and civic activist who was severely beaten for her investigative reporting on Ukranian corruption. She is a true hero.
These two women connect who they are with what they do every single day. They are real Chiefs. Chiefs are all around us—in business, education, religion, and right next door. What it takes to be Chief is not who you know or even what you know. It’s who you are—and then what you do with it.
I encourage you to create your own list of Chiefs and let them know how much you appreciate what they do, how they do it, and who they are.