In our search to find well-being (the balance of compassion and thought) we discovered the magic of meditation, the wonderful benefits of prayer, and the healthy infusion of mind, body, and spirit through the consumption of tea. Throughout these discoveries, we have come across various writings, videos, and artistic presentations which further this pursuit. To be of further service to you, we have compiled an assortment of these works which you may find beneficial. Please enjoy as we have.
Four Ordinary Traits of Extraordinary Leaders
During my doctoral studies in leadership development, one question framed more conversations than almost any other: do great leaders form in any age and under any circumstance—or do contrary circumstances actually “summon” leaders to step forward? For example, would we have ever heard of attorney Abraham Lincoln had we never had a civil war to fight or a union to preserve? Do the times make the person or does the person make the times? I could make an argument for both.
Former president Harry Truman once said, “Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
Perhaps the answer is in the middle. The raw material lies within many people in every generation to become effective leaders—but they may never respond to the need for their leadership. It is both nature and nurture that beckons a leader to step forward. Some may take initiative and some may play it safe.
Four Common Characteristics of Extraordinary Leaders
So what is it that history-changing leaders have in common? In any era, are there common characteristics that surface in the men and women who change the course of history in a positive way? I believe we see four distinct commonalities:
1. They welcome crises and face them head on.
Those who improved history did not shrink from challenges. While few people actually enjoy negative experiences, extraordinary leaders have the backbone to walk toward them to address them rather than walk away to avoid them. During the dark days leading up to World War II, Neville Chamberlain served as prime minister of England. He believed naively that the U.K. could negotiate with Adolf Hitler and never have to enter conflict. Winston Churchill recognized that Hitler’s appetite for control of Europe was all consuming—and met the challenge of Nazi Germany head on.
2. They see their context as a place to serve people not to secure power.
Extraordinary leaders are motivated by something different than the average person. Those who’ve improved history did not see leadership as a place to accumulate power or gain status but rather to give and to serve. It’s easy to tell the difference. Emperor Constantine wasn’t a horrible man, but his legacy was moving and naming the capital of Rome after himself. On the other hand, while Pope Francis isn’t perfect, his motives tend to be serving and improving the world for the underserved. It’s a timeless trait of transformational leaders.
3. They leveraged their own strengths and style to reach a goal.
Still another quality of extraordinary leaders is—they don’t merely imitate other leaders but find their unique style. While they learn timeless principles from past leaders, they use their own strengths and personal style to achieve their mission. When I study and view footage from the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. stands apart because he was his own person. He was a rhetorical leader who leveraged his words, passion and willingness to sacrifice to move the needle for equal rights in America. On the other hand, while Jesse Jackson was and is a good man, it seemed he merely tried to imitate King, without his presence, moral authority and primary gifts.
4. They balanced the past and future in their decisions.
Those who improve history don’t merely consider today but consider their heritage and the future they hope for the people they influence. This enables them to work for a future they may never see, but know future generations will. Malcolm X labored for minorities, but did not have the patience for peaceful demonstrations; he felt you fight fire with fire. On the other hand Nelson Mandela patiently waited to make his mark on South Africa; Mother Teresa patiently sacrificed for the poor in Calcutta. They didn’t make a difference overnight, but over time. They kept the big picture and the long-term in mind as they led. And their legacy is solid.
I realize you might not see yourself as a “Mother Teresa,” or a “Nelson Mandela.” I believe, however, that these four characteristics can be applied by you and me in our current context, however large or small. I love the words of Leonard Sweet, who said: “Every policy decision should be subject to this as a litmus test: will the coming generations praise us or curse us for doing this?”
Brand New Habitudes Book
Habitudes for Life-Giving Leaders: The Art of Transformational Leadership
The Art of Transformational Leadership uses the power of images, conversations, and experiences to help students:
- Lead in a way that energizes and inspires team members.
- Listen and understand others through empathy and compassion.
- Provide a safety net that accelerates productivity on the team.
- Offer hard feedback that elicits more effort rather than hurt feelings from others.
- Mobilize team members to become the best version of themselves.
- . . . and many more!
Order your copy of the newest Habitudes book today!
Have you ever regretted not doing something because you psyched yourself out? Whether it be asking someone out on a date, confronting a family member, or asking the boss for a raise, we tend to overestimate how bad the consequences really are.
“We all talk to ourselves. A major key to success exists in what we say to ourselves, which helps to shape our attitude and mindset.”
– Darren Johnson
In other words, we “think too much” about what could happen and convince ourselves that these actions are not worth the trouble.
However, people are much more mentally resilient than they often give themselves credit for.
What Are Self-Affirmations?
Self-affirmations are statements that we tell ourselves in order to spark self-change (Steele, 1988). They are designed to alter our beliefs about ourselves such that they are more positive.
Generally speaking, self-affirmations serve as part of the psychological immune system. For example, when your boss harshly critiques your work, we give ourselves positive reminders like “it’s going to be okay” to help cope with the situation.
Although we use self-affirmations as a coping mechanism, they can also motivate us. Quite simply, when we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to take action. So when we tell ourselves that “I love my job”, we feel good about going to work.
In contrast, when we feel bad about ourselves we become complacent, depressed, and are at a greater risk for health problems (Pauketat, Moons, Chen, Mackie, & Sherman, 2016).
The Benefits of Daily Affirmations
“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.”
– Robert Kiyosaki
Affirmations are more than just a self-help statements to make ourselves feel better. They can have a significant impact on our overall quality of life. Regular affirmations allow us to become more in tune with our thoughts and the way we think about our self in general.
When we are conscious of our attitudes towards the self, we can make an effort to eliminate negative thoughts. When we become more aware of ourselves, we are able to be mindful of surrounding ourselves with positive things.
The more you practice the more you notice what aspects of your life are most important to you as well as things that may be impeding on your happiness.
Additionally, daily affirmations help keep you in consistently positive mood. Optimistic people tend to be healthier, more productive, and generally happier than those who view themselves less positively. One study shows that after 4-weeks of repeated self-affirmation activity, participants experienced an increase in their mental well-being (Nelson, Fuller, Choi, & Lyubomirsky, 2014).
Daily affirmations allow us to have a clearer perspective on the obstacles in our life. In other words, people who practice daily affirmations don’t sweat the small stuff because they have a better grasp on what is important in their life. They are able to think about the big picture and not get overwhelmed with minor nuisances.
Positivity is contagious. By practicing positive affirmations, you are indirectly benefiting others as well. Your positive attitude will carry on to other people and in turn make them feel better.
What do Daily Affirmations Look Like?
Daily affirmations can be a difficult thing to do. Especially if you are someone who has struggled with self-compassion before, saying something nice about yourself is not always the easiest. To begin, we need to identify some of the properties of good affirmations.
Most importantly, an affirmation needs to be stated in the present and be positive. For example, “I expect to be successful”, would be one such affirmation. Notice that is written in the present; it does not say “I will be successful.”
An affirmation should be immediately gratifying for it to be effective. Also, it needs to be positive as well as unconditional. Saying something like “I will be successful after I get promoted” implies that a condition must be met in order for you to benefit. These kinds of affirmations can be more problematic than they are helpful.
Affirmations are more beneficial when they are repeated. The more you repeat the same affirmation, the more your unconscious begins to believe it. By continually subjecting our mind to positive thoughts, we are actively changing how brain functions (Shaffer, 2016). Over time we are training our brains to think more positively through self-affirmations.
Lastly, write your affirmations down. Saying good things about yourself aloud is one thing, but writing them down increases their potency. Writing an affirmation down allows your mind one more way to absorb the positive message.
The benefits of daily affirmations have been scientifically supported and can help a lot of people. Like with most things in life, the hardest part is getting started.
It might seem silly or trivial at first, but the outcomes are real. People are just happier when they practice daily affirmations. I have listed some example affirmations below to help you get started.
Pick one, say it aloud, write it down, and start changing your life for the better.
Examples of Affirmations:
- “My life is fun and rewarding.”
- “I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything.”
- “I am grateful for everything I have.”
- “It’s easy for me to meet people. I attract positive, kind-hearted people.”
- “I am confident and able to handle any obstacle thrown in front of me.”
- “I have integrity. I tell the truth.”
- “I am diligent. I am hard working.”
- “I am energetic and full of enthusiasm.”
- “I am calm and peaceful”
“Be mindful of your self-talk. It’s a conversation with the Universe.”
– David James Lees