What is leadership? Leadership is not necessarily about telling people what to do. A leader is somebody who inspires and empowers their followers to reach their own fullest potential. Leadership is not only the role of the CEO, manager, coach or somebody in charge of the organization. It is rather a responsibility that should be taken up by everybody who has any impact on another person, whether a janitor, teacher, bus driver, parent etc. Leadership does not have to be the making of decisions, but rather the inspiration, empowerment and advancement of everyone in society. It should in theory be a way of life that leaves the world in a better place through our actions. A great leader builds people’s self-esteem which helps their tribe or team to feel positive and connected to them as the leader.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
How do you become a leader?
Leaders don’t so much demand as command; respect, trust, inspiration, integrity and a willingness to follow them. Trust is essential in becoming a leader.
“We can build our leadership upon fear, obligation, or trust. However, only a foundation of trust results in the collaboration and goodwill necessary to achieve our peak performance.” Roger Allen
Management expert, Stephen Robbins said that, trust from the people you lead, is based on competence, consistency, loyalty and openness. There is a saying that people are promoted to their incompetence. Many people in leadership positions have been placed there, without the ability to truly lead. To be an effective leader, the people whom you lead need to have faith in your competence to lead and make the right choices. Leaders are judged on the decisions they make.
Your team will also look at you for consistency in your decision making strategies. This has a lot to do with your values. Do you consistently make the same choices in the same circumstances? This will help to create an environment of shared values as the team all start to pull the same line. Having these same shared values is not only great for team, but also for the wider client and audience base as they know what you stand for.
Where do your loyalties lie? A leaders loyalties is not to purely serve their own gain, but rather to empower and stand with the people they lead. As the saying goes, a rising tide floats all ships. A leader serves those whom they lead. This loyalty to those you lead will in turn lead to loyalty from the followers towards the leader. Serving as a leader is a concept further discussed in the book “Servant Leadership,” by Robert Greenleaf.
Trust and openness is then necessary to build on the relationship between the leader and follower/team. This includes vulnerability and being open to share aspects of your trials and tribulations so as to show that you are approachable and only human. When leaders show this openness and willingness to be vulnerable it allows for others to trust more of what they say. Unfortunately there are people in leadership who make out as if they are impervious to challenges and this leads to people doubting their authenticity.
Leaders have credibility
To be a leader who has people willingly follow you, you need to be credible. Your tribe need to believe in you and trust you. You need to walk your talk and deliver on what you promise. Unfortunately we all too often see politicians promise voters the world, only to deliver very little upon their election. True leaders are people who have the right to do so, earned through deliberate, inspirational massive action. Having risen to be taken notice of through their actions. Not just because they have a certain title or degree. Integrity comes from doing what is right and sticking to your guns, even in times of challenge. There is nothing wrong with changing direction if the current plan is not leading to the desired result. However changing your mind willy-nilly on the flip of a coin or because a better offer comes along, will leave your reputation is disrepute.
We all know that it is important to have good listening skills, but what does that mean for a leader? As a leader, it is important to listen to the people on the ground. Hear their concerns and opinions. That does not mean by into them. Leaders often have a bird’s eye view of the bigger picture and have access to information that their tribe do not. It is important to balance that knowledge with potential nuggets of information that might not be available to them otherwise. Example, the general in a war has an overview of many moving parts and overall vision. However he might not know that the soldiers do not have the right type of explosives for the job and as such might jeopardize the mission. Thus it would be prudent of him to hear what each platoon leaders specific requirements are for each part of the battle.
Being an effective listener can increase the organizations productivity and team motivation.
“Make the human element as important as the financial or the technical element. You save tremendous amounts of time, energy and money when you tap into the human resources of a business at every level. When you listen, you learn. And you also give the people who work for you and with you psychological air. You inspire loyalty that goes well beyond the eight-to-five physical demands of the job.” – Stephen Covey.
Leadership Requires Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman, author of Primal Leadership, says that an organization responds to the energy and enthusiasm of its leader. Leaders with a positive attitude will help the organization to thrive. Whereas leaders who spread negativity will create organizational woes. This is true not only in organizations, but leadership in general.
An emotionally intelligent leader is one who is tuned in to not only their own, but also the teams emotional well being and potential. In NLP we talk about ecology. This relates to the impact on the person and the overall system as a whole. We are all intertwined and part of the overall system. Each playing their part. In everything we do, we want to ensure that there is no negative impact on the system.
From a leadership point of view, this means our decisions and actions need to have an overall positive impact. This might not be the case for somebody who is fired for theft, however it is a positive for the organization as a whole.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” – John F. Kennedy.
The point being that a leader needs to consider the whole and the parts that make up the whole. Everything from delegation to making decisions in the direction of the organization.
As an effective leader it is important to know your own strengths, areas for development, how you respond or react to certain conditions and circumstances etc. Then how to empower and work with your team to deal with those situations for themselves. Example what happens when somebody fails at a task? How do you react and what might they be feeling at that point in time? Thus, how to work with that team member to find a suitable solution.
A young IBM employee in the 1940’s made a mistake that cost the company about one million dollars. He typed his resignation letter, knowing that he was about to be fired. When he handed it to Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, Watson responded: “Fire you? I’ve just invested one million dollars in your education, and you think I’m going to fire you?”
Many small business owners work by themselves for themselves. They are used to doing it all alone. Whilst this might be acceptable for the one man band, it certainly is not the mark of a leader. A leader understands that you cannot do it all by yourself. This is where the art of delegation comes in. It is useful to consider the 4 D’s here. Do, delete, delegate or defer. If it falls within the delegate realm, then there is a fine line between delegation and abdication. At the same time, as a leader, you inspire and empower your people to make the decisions in their capacity to get the job done. Looking over their shoulder will leave them dis-empowered.
Ask yourself, does the person have the necessary information and resources to do what is expected? Do they feel empowered to make the decisions necessary and not fearful of making mistakes? Do they value and understand the importance of the task? The leader might set the direction, but not give micromanaging directions. Thus leading whilst allowing the team to find the way.
Leaders often coach, mentor and develop those who are in their tribe/ team. Helping them to learn from the leader and their experience. True leadership is not about creating followers, but inspiring and creating more leaders.
Leaders inspire, they empower and they motivate and assist others in achieving their best. Leaders also know that school is never out. Leaders are continually educating and improving themselves. They know that coaching plays an integral part to that development. What leadership qualities do you have? Which do you want to improve upon?
If you are a leader and want to either grow as a leader or improve, feel free to reach out. Please like and share this article so that others might find benefit in it.