Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. – William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Certainly you’re already familiar with the question “are leaders born or made?”. The fact of the matter is we can find truth on both sides. There are scientific studies which revealed that leaders have brains that are wired differently. However, if that was a 100% accurate, then countries, states, companies and associations would have their people be head scanned before they appoint anyone as a leader.
Fortunately, you can develop your leadership skills if you so choose to. In this post I would like to explore 5 steps you can take to become a better leader. It is true that most of us secretly want to be better known, valued and appreciated than we are. But it is a danger in leadership to put the focus on yourself. Following these steps will help:
1. Be self-aware.
This is by far the most of important step, not only in Leadership, but also in life in general. You need to know where you are before you can get to where you want to go. For example when you are at a Mall looking at the map, the first thing you need to do is pay attention to the “you are here” sign, from there you can easily find the particular store you are looking for.
In her article Are Leaders Born or Made?, Erica Anderson, a contributor at Forbes Magazine, describes self-awareness as “the single most powerful way to grow as a leader” She argues that “becoming truly self-aware means to cultivate, on a daily basis, an accurate sense of how you show up in the world and what motivates you. For instance: What are your actual strengths and weaknesses as a leader and as a person? What impact do you have on others? What do you care most about? What’s your moral compass, and do you use it as a guidance system? How closely do your actions line up with your promises?”
2. Genuinely care for people
Smart people will not follow a leader who does not care for or is not interested in them and I am sure you do not want to be leading a bunch of dorks. Show people that you do care about them, and you mean it. Be really interested in their well-being and success, and act on it. That will gain you sincere and loyal followers for a life time who will always get your back.
One simple but yet powerful way, to show your interest in people, that I learned from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, is to remember people’s names. “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important word in any language”. There is more to it than I am writing here so I would highly encourage you to read the chapter entitled “If You Don’t Do This, You are Headed for Trouble” in Mr. Carnegie’s book
3. Know your stuff
How can you lead if you do not know the way? To lead people you have to know your stuff, your field. Not only that, but you also have to be able to communicate it clearly and concisely to your base. One of your roles as a leader is to educate the masses, so you really have to be on top of your game. Few ways to accomplish this are:
- to read and read again, anything that is related to your field, subscribe to magazines and blogs dealing with your area of expertise,
- to attend conferences and seminars
- to network with people in your field, because as Emerson would say “any person I meet is my superior in some area, in that I can learn from them”.
4. Be trustworthy
As a leader, you have to operate from firm standards and very clear set of values because your followers can detect and reject opportunistic and selfish motives. Remember everyone is tuned in to WIFM, the “What In it For Me” station. If you only have your best interest in heart, very soon you will be alone. Furthermore you have to walk the talk. You will not be able to preach one thing and do something entirely different and expect people to still follow your lead. Be a person of your word and always follow through.
5. Be committed
A leader who is not dedicated to the cause, the organization or the belief can not lead his team to success. On the other hand a committed leader is more effective in influencing his people. As a leader your commitment is needed to build momentum in your team, or your group. Commitment is contagious and the people you lead are watching your actions and attitudes to model theirs after. So be committed!
All in all, we are all leaders in a certain way, leader as parents, leaders as teachers or coaches, leaders as supervisors or managers. The questions is: are we good leaders? The good leader is not the one who stand for people to lean on but the one who make leaning on unnecessary. The steps listed here are just part of what makes a good leader. If you are interested in learning more about leadership I would recommend the following books, but by no means is this list exhaustive.
The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes Posner
The 21 Indispensable qualities of Leader by John Maxwell
Leaderships Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant by Al Kaltman
The Leader of the Future by the Drucker Foundation
The 21 Most Powerful Munites in a Leader’s day by John Maxwell
Question: what are your criteria of a good leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.