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Why Leadership Quirks are Important

Once you learn how to notice something, it becomes easier to find the next time.

The 17-year cicada swarmaggedon of 2004 was an amazing reminder to me about this simple lesson. That summer, thousands upon thousands of cicadas crooned sonnets looking to woo mates, be fruitful and multiply. Thanks to that experience, I can now hear summer cicada ballads amid the buzz and whir of traffic, cell phone pings and yet another training that uses the “basketball awareness test.”

Things are easier to find if you know what to search for.

I’ve been fortunate to have participated in three distinct, year-long leadership development programs throughout my career. Extended leadership development programs often require participants to write a personal leadership philosophy. It’s an excellent exercise and a prudent practice to revisit at least once a year. But listen for the cicada song: the reason why it’s beneficial to make this a habit is that you will become better at recognizing what others do well and noticing their leadership skills.

Being able to see what others do well is a real-life superhero power in the workplace that every leader should have. However, all superheroes are quirky in at least two ways:

  1. They look out for others. They desire and do what is good for others, even when it doesn’t feel nice or comfortable (e.g., correcting a co-worker who is also a friend, asking others to do a 360 interview for you).
  2. They take a stand. They know that certain actions are always wrong regardless of when it happened or who is involved (e.g., lying about work that wasn’t completed, stealing company equipment, abusing supervisory authority).

Here is a peculiar thought: maybe leaders are odd because they behave as everyone else really ought to behave more often. Leaders are fixing the world by redefining what it means to be “normal”: a normal person actually looks out for others and wants to do the right things.

Matthew Kelly, an international leadership consultant, writes and speaks about how hard it is to be the best version of you every day. So when we encounter someone who is truly altruistic and who has a good conscience… it’s unusual. And attractive. Leadership is beautiful! And while beauty can startle us (double rainbow, anyone?), it always has the power to attract and inspire. Once you know what to look for in others, it’s fun to spot everyday heroes and to recognize acts of leadership.

So, you see, you were probably weird BEFORE you started seeing the best in others. You just needed someone to notice.

Khiet Luong is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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