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The Anatomy of a Leader

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but the anatomy of a leader isn't different. Leaders are human beings first – and while all of these body parts are important to all of us as humans, to leaders they perform these important additional roles.

There is no perfect leader; leaders truly come in all shapes and sizes. Doctors know the same about their patients, yet they still study anatomy – to understand the basic workings of body parts, their roles and how they function together. While the bodies are different, the anatomy is the same. Similarly, though the style, approach and specific skills of leaders are different, the anatomy is the same.
With this post I thought I would share my perspective on the most important body parts for all leaders, at all levels, in all situations. Here then, in no particular order, is the basic anatomy of a remarkable leader.
Feet. People want to be led by those who lead by example. The best leaders walk their walk. They do the right things for the right reasons and are willing to be observed as an example.
Hands. The best leaders are willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work. While they have their own work and priorities, they are willing to help their team when needed. They humbly bring their skills and experience to these situations in a helpful, not overbearing or controlling, way.
Fingers. The best leaders have a soft touch and can keep their fingers on the pulse of the organization. While they rely on other senses from other body parts, they stay in touch and their proximity and presence makes a difference for their team members (and the results they achieve).
Shoulders. The best leaders know that while much responsibility can and should be shared, they also understand, as did Harry Truman did, where the buck stops. Their shoulders are broad and strong, willing to support that responsibility and allow their team and organization to thrive.
Eyes. The best leaders notice what is going on around them. They watch and notice. Their ability to see what is in front of them is important, but their vision stretches beyond that. They also have excellent distance vision – they can see farther ahead and can help others see what they see as well.
Ears. The best leaders use their ears to listen, not just hold up their glasses. They listen to Customers, they listen to peers and their bosses, but most of all they listen to their people. They realize that to engage others they must encourage their input and engagement, and then they must stop and truly listen.
Lips. Good leaders must be good communicators. Whether speaking to a group, or to any individual, they must learn to speak in ways that messages are both sent successfully, and also received. The best leaders though, also know when to shut up and rely on their ears to improve their effectiveness and communication success.
Head. Good leaders are smart. They are continual learners and consistently and intentionally work to build their skills and knowledge. Since they know that being a great leader is a journey, they get on, and stay on that path. They use their head to think through problems and make reasoned decisions based on facts as well as feelings.
Heart. Leadership is about leading others – which means there is an emotional component to the role. People follow people that care. People want to be led by people who believe in them, and the organization’s mission. No leader can be great without a big, strong heart.
Leaders are human beings first – and while all of these body parts are important to all of us as humans, to leaders they perform these important additional roles. Think about your anatomy in this way and you will be challenging yourself to become the leader you were born to be.
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Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. You can learn more about him and a special offer on his newest book, Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at .

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