What Makes a Leader: Connection with Others

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Inspired by his team, ConceptShare CEO Nish Patel cites “team orientation” as just one of the attirbutes of leadership.

I don’t think there’s a universal answer to the question, “What makes a leader?”

My own definition of leadership has changed greatly as I’ve gained experience and the perspective of time. What I know today isn’t what I thought leadership was 10 years ago, and I’m sure it won’t be what I think 10 years from now. It’s hard to sum up in a few sentences, but just like trying to communicate a deeply felt sentiment through a Hallmark card, let me highlight some of the qualities that today define what I believe to be leadership.

  • Consistency. Leaders are consistent. They don’t schedule leadership on their calendar or display it today but not tomorrow. True leadership isn’t a one-time event, but something that’s always there.
  • Integrity. Leaders have a code of what they will and won’t do. It doesn’t change for the sake of convenience or expediency. To a leader, integrity is black and white.
  • Positive orientation.Leaders lead from a place of positive energy. Leaders are acutely aware of the dangers and pitfalls, and they plan for them, but they’re focused on what is possible and what can be achieved.
  • Tenaciousness. Leaders persevere through the “dips” that always happen when you have set your sights on a formidable challenge or goal. They have the patience, the energy and the motivation to figure out a way through or around.
  • Team orientation.Leaders give energy to and are energized by the team. Leaders know that achieving what’s possible is never a solitary endeavor. They serve the team in the shared pursuit of what is possible.
  • Authenticity and connection. Leaders are themselves. They’re not putting on an act. Leaders are not afraid to share their thoughts and feelings. They aren’t afraid to display empathy, fear, love or any other emotion that makes them open and vulnerable. This is how they connect deeply with the people around them.

None of this new to anyone that has read one of the many volumes of books, articles and white papers written on leadership. They’re just some of the attributes of leadership that I cherish the most. There are many others, such as curiosity, playfulness, courage, adaptability, a desire to learn and humility.

Do I embody these qualities myself? I’m a “work-in-progress” leader. I’m certainly a better leader than I was prepared to be in my youth and a better leader today than I was yesterday, but not as good as I will be tomorrow.

Finding Inspiration

Which leaders inspire me? Is there a specific example? t’s hard for me to point to a specific act of leadership because I don’t think leadership is a one-time event. Leadership is displayed, embodied and fulfilled over time, through a series of events, and I see it every day in the team I work with at ConceptShare.

I see leadership in Chris, who has consistently displayed his tenacity by working through the deep and sometimes dark valleys that come with co-founding a startup. I see leadership in Julie, who displays a high degree of adaptability in learning new skills and growing into her role as a Business Analyst. I see leadership in Desirae, who displays an unwavering positive orientation no matter the challenge in front of her. I see leadership in Matt, who displays team orientation by always energizing his colleagues, our customers and our partners by freely sharing his knowledge and ideas and being equally open to theirs.

I see leadership across every part of our company, and to me, that’s awe-inspiring, because leadership shouldn’t be the job of one person. It can’t be. Leadership should be a quality that is exhibited in every member of the organization. It’s a value that should be—needs to be—universal, whether the organization is a company, team, classroom or family.


conceptshare_bio-pic_nish[1]Nish Patel is Chief Executive Officer of ConceptShare . Patel is an entrepreneur who knows how to take ideas and turn them into successful businesses. He’s led several startups – some his own, some others’ – and he’s currently the CEO of ConceptShare, a creative operations management tool for enterprise marketing teams. In a parallel world, he likes to think he’s a standup comedian.

Comments, thoughts, feedback?