Stoke The Fire: Seven Ways To Maximize Your Leadership Potential

Stoke The Fire: Seven Ways To Maximize Your Leadership Potential
By Andrew F. Ortiz, J.D., M.P.A., President & CEO, Ortiz Leadership Systems, LLC.

A few years ago I was sitting in my office in Tempe, Arizona, and I was reflecting on my life and career. Through that reflection, I contemplated things that I have been fortunate enough to experience in life and in leadership. I analyzed both the successes and the failures that I have experienced along the way, and I started writing down some leadership traits that I thought one should possess to maximize their leadership potential. This article was born out of that thought. The seven leadership traits that I share in this article are by no means a magic formula for success, but I certainly believe that they will set you on a true and steady path in your own respective leadership journeys.

Principle 1: Passion – I have found it to be true in life that passion and enthusiasm have consistently taken my performance to higher levels. The energy that you bring to your work infuses you with a spirit that motivates you to always give your level best. As Aldous Huxley so aptly stated, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age which means never losing your enthusiasm.” Find the work that you were meant to do, and put your heart and soul into it. The results will most certainly amaze you. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Principle 2: Vision – I have always been inspired and fascinated by the works of visionary leaders who have been able take their followers from where they were to where they needed to be. Visionary leadership conjures up images of Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, and Mahatma Gandhi. However, in our own lives, we are often asked to be visionary in our roles as leaders. Vision is the ability to create a picture of the future that inspires followership. Keep your eyes on your environment and seek to anticipate the trends in your fields of endeavor. There is a Japanese proverb that informs my thinking on this topic, which states: “A vision without action is just a dream. Action without vision is just a nightmare.”

Principle 3: Communicator – Ideas are the currency of the communicator. I have always thought that any leader worth his or her salt should be effective communicators – both as speakers and writers. Communication can take many forms and can take place in various ways. Communication can involve addressing a large audience at a convention, or it can involve motivating an employee in a one-on-one discussion. Your interpersonal skills will likely be called upon at some time to lead a team, or perhaps your writing skills will be required to communicate ideas in an article, a blog, a report , or in a memorandum. Give deep thought to the ideas that you communicate to others, and the style in which you communicate them. Make your communication thoughtful and compelling. In her book “Gift From the Sea,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”

Principle 4: Connector – How many times have you heard it’s not what you know, it’s who you know? (Actually it’s both.) Effective leaders not only get to know lots of different people through their work; they also are mindful of connecting people together than can learn from one another. This allows people to achieve great things together that they could not achieve alone. I like to call this being a broker of relationships or a connector of the dots. Leaders should become great judges of talent and they should readily cultivate this talent where they find it, through mentorship and other support services that they can provide to up-and-coming leaders. We must work together to achieve our goals and aspirations, because our organizations, communities, and society depend on it. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it well when he said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Let us connect with others to bring out the best in ourselves, and to seek to bring out their best in return. In doing so, we create a true “win-win”.

Principle 5: Builder – One of the top leadership traits that I have witnessed in leaders that I have admired is that they are builders – builders of organizations, movements, coalitions, and relationships. It is far easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize those that are seeking to build all of these things, than it is to roll up your sleeves and do the work. That is why the leadership role of builder is so important. A leader should seek to build up people and organizations, and not tear them down. As former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn once remarked, “Any jackass can kick down the barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.” Be daring as a leader, and lay strong foundations for success.

Principle 6: Knowledgeable – I have always maintained that a leader is a person who is always thirsting for more information and knowledge. Information, put to good use in the service of others, is a source of great influence and can lead to great achievements. Leaders should learn from those that are wiser than themselves, and they should create reputations as credible sources of information. Knowledge is not of particular value on its own, it must be put into practice. As Herbert Spencer put it, “The great end of education is not knowledge, but action.”

Principle 7: Sense of Humor – A leader should take their work seriously, but they need not always take themselves too seriously. It is an admirable trait for a leader to maintain a sense of humor and levity. Even in the midst of the tumult of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said, “With the fearful strain that is on me, night and day, if I could not laugh, I should die.” When the stresses of our lives seem to weigh like the world upon shoulders, we can employ our sense of humor to not only survive, but to thrive. In his landmark book “Laughter is the Best Medicine”, Dr. Norman Cousins wrote, “Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an igniter of great expectation.” Here’s wishing all of you happy leading!

I hope this article will inspire you to become the best leader that you can possibly be. The path of leadership is never completely smooth, and there will undoubtedly be pitfalls to avoid and obstacles to overcome. However, the journey of leadership can also be rewarding beyond measure. So allow me to bid you Godspeed on your journey of leadership and achievement. Enjoy the ride!

About the Author: Andrew Ortiz, J.D., M.P.A. is the President & CEO of Ortiz Leadership Systems, LLC in Tempe, Arizona. Andrew is an internationally renowned speaker, leadership trainer, personal development coach, and management consultant. Andrew can be reached at . To learn more about his work and how to engage his services, please visit


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