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“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela nelson mandela photo: nelson mandela nelson_mandela_return_to_cell.jpg

This week marks the loss of one of the world’s greatest leaders, Nelson Mandela. Mandela overcame unthinkable obstacles on his journey to ending apartheid and becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Many a man or woman would not have survived, let alone triumphed over the adversity he faced, but triumph he did.

How many of us face struggle and adversity in our lives or businesses today? How many of us rise to the occasion? My guess is the majority of us admit defeat more often then we’d like. What are we missing? What Nelson Mandela had and what all great leaders share is a strong sense of purpose. We cannot deny even evil dictators have conviction to a cause or mission.

We often describe great leaders as passionate, but passion alone will not get you to your end goal. There must be a deeper calling to see you through to the end.

On the journey of entrepreneurship there will be many times you are called upon to make decisions that will define you, your business and your brand. How will you stand? Unless you have a deep sense of purpose, you remain in danger of being knocked off course.  

So the question is, what is YOUR vision? What would you like contribute? What impact do you want to have? On whom?

If you feel called to do great things, you are called to leadership.

To help you stand strong and stay the course, here are a few tips. 

1. Clarify your vision. What is it you really want? Why do you want it? What does it mean to you? Unless you have a deep emotional connection to your vision, you will be susceptible to burn out or distraction.

2. Visualize the end result. What does the success of your vision look like? How will your life be different if your reach your goal? How will the world look? How will the lives of the people you care about change? Try to be as detailed as possible. The more specific you can be in imagining the outcome, the more fuel you will have to keep going.

3. Be open to alternative paths. You may have a set idea of how you are going to achieve you goal, but things do not always go as planned. You need to remain open and flexible about the process because may have to shift gears many times along the way. If you are rigid about how you think you should achieve your goal, you may miss important opportunities.

4. You must be willing to be unpopular. Even Nelson Mandela had his detractors, but that did not stop him. Being a great leader is not about being liked. It is about effecting change, making an impact and producing results. If however, the results you produce have a positive outcome, you will be very well liked indeed. Do not undermine your success in an effort to gain affection.

5. You must decide. No one can make the decision to lead except for you. Only you can decide to do what needs to be done or to make the necessary personal sacrifices. Mandala was not the only person jailed for his beliefs or actions, but he was the one who chose to lead.

6. Find your allies. Leadership can be a lonely journey. It is essential to find your support systems. Sometimes your supporters are your family as was the case with Mandela. However, sometimes family members are not the best supporters. You may need to find a mentor or peers who understand, empathize and encourage you. Even if you are the leader of your tribe, you still need to be part of a community on which you can lean.

As we reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela and other great leaders, it causes us to reflect on the impact of our own lives. We all want to feel like we matter, like we can contribute. Your path may not be to change the course of an entire country, but you most certainly can positively impact the lives of clients, your family and your community. The question is, do you have what it takes?

I am here to support you in any way I can. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can step into your role as brand leader, please contact me here or email me at heather@clearvoicebranding.com to schedule a FREE Brand Strategy Session.

I love to hear your voice!

What do you think are the most important traits in a great leader?

Post your answers below in the comments or find me on Facebook.

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Heather Poduska is a brand strategist, business coach and opera singer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create client attractive brands, polished brand images and brand communication strategies to increase their visibility and impact in the marketplace and grow their businesses.