The Three Keys to Making a Leader

19 Nov

Statue of Jeanne from L’église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc (taken during my trip to Rouen)

Now here is the million dollar question: How did Jeanne d’Arc do it? How did this young woman who couldn’t read, write, or become a man convince an entire country of its purpose and lead an army into war. Her story is the stuff of fables and legend – it has lived on for hundreds upon hundreds of years, but there was without doubt a Jeanne d’Arc, and she did most certainly change the course of France’s war. It all sounds entirely improbable, and yet it was done.

Now here is the second million dollar question (quite literally, if you think about career potential): What made Jeanne d’Arc a leader? That’s what we’ll be digging into in this post: How to pick up the sword of leadership, even in the most unlikely circumstances.

Last week we introduced the ambitious, warm-hearted and successful Nicole Beaudoin – Top One Hundred winner, President of the Quebec Business Women’s Network, mother, grandmother, and builder of women’s networks on an international scale. (She’s our modern day hero-heroine.) and discussed how she used intuition in her leadership style. Today we’ll be looking at how Nicole became a leader in the first place.

Interestingly (and much like myself as well), Nicole was a shy child. She would be with her books more than with other people. “I didn’t know I was a leader,” says Nicole, who reflects upon her first act of leadership. Unlike Jeanne d’Arc, it wasn’t about approaching Baudricourt in an attempt to convince the king of her mission; Instead, Nicole remembers a summer swimming class.

When she was around 18, Nicole became a leader while teaching girls how to swim. She realized one day, “I’m not always shy.” In fact, when she was before her girls – she was taking charage and setting the example of what they could accomplish. For Nicole leadership became simple, “people liked you, so they followed you.”

(I was just at a WXN talk on leadership environments, and it was shared that human resources was one of the newest demands from clients staffing high level executive jobs – even in technical positions, clients want leaders who people will like. Apparently this would never have happened years ago, and yet here was Nicole with the exact same philosophy as a young woman, “people liked you, so they followed you.” And you can see from her bio just how far up she went in the business world. People liking you – a concept before its time! No wonder it comes from a woman.)

Nicole “learned to be myself, and not be afraid to try certain things or make mistakes.” She adopted a very forgiving attitude toward her journey as a leader: “I made mistakes, I’m a human being. But you don’t always make mistakes, you make good things too.”

And there it is. What do we need to do to lead? We need to take the risk despite the possibility of failure.

Here’s another example, when I was in grade eight I somehow became class president (again people liked me – that’s a HUGE asset and so I was voted into the position), and I can remember shaking during each speech and presentation. It was nerve racking and yet, I was leading. Later at university it was the same thing again, people liked me so I became class president again – and because of that experience, I found my connection to start as a sales rep at Le Droit.

Learning summary!

What do you need to be a leader?

1. You need to risk making mistakes.

2. People should be able to like you, and you in turn should like them.  (in general 😉 )

“Women in my generation are afraid to make mistakes,” says Nicole. It there is one regret she has, it is that she didn’t listen to her intuition more often – saying that “gut feeling” wasn’t an acceptable form of decision making when she was working within her high level position.

So we’re going to add to that list, in honour of Jeanne d’Arc’s voices, women’s intuition, and Nicole’s only regret.

3. Listen to your intuition, and follow through on your hunches.

And there you have it – your answer to the a million dollar question: What makes a leader? It’s not always circumstances . . . both Jeanne and Nicole didn’t start in favourable positions to lead, but if you’ve got the determination and willingness to take risks, BIG things can happen. Women have been proving that to us generation after generation.

Till next time!



2 Responses to “The Three Keys to Making a Leader”

  1. Denise B November 23, 2012 at 16:55 #

    Intuition is one of our greatest allies if we learn to use it. We have been taught that it is “irrational” but intuition allows you to read people and to seize opportunities, to take risks.

    • sisterleadership November 26, 2012 at 10:43 #

      I couldn’t agree more, Denise. Thank you so much for leaving this comment, and adding strength to the concept of intuition in our careers (and lives!).

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