Do you have leadership potential? Are you a leader or a follower?
The way that people talk about leadership, you’d think it was all about you. Sure, there are some traits that you should develop to be a better leader and, sure, experience and education help. The truth is, however, leadership isn’t all about you.
By definition, a leader works with a group of other people, and leadership is very much about them. You also came into your leadership position in a very specific context to do a very specific thing. Who you work with, who you work for, and what you are working towards are all aspects of leadership that you might not be able to change.
There are lots of good resources about how you can develop into a better leader, but this article is going to be about the external aspects of leadership.
You are a leader within the context of a company that has its own history.
Technology is changing the ways that many businesses do things, and it’s making it easier for new businesses to spring up. As a result, you might be the first person to have held your position at your company. In this case, people are going to expect things from you, and those expectations will likely impact your leadership style.
On the other hand, most people who come to occupy leadership positions are promoted into positions that were previously held by someone else.
Your predecessor’s style of leadership and success or failure in that position may give you a boost as you take over, or it may serve as an obstacle that you will need to overcome as you put your own name on the desk.
As was mentioned in the introduction, being a leader means that you won’t be working in isolation, you will have a team. That team will have their own quirks, their own strengths, and their own weaknesses.
Many of the strengths of a good leader involve getting the most out of your team by inspiring them, by helping them to work together, and by orchestrating them so that their strengths have the most possible impact on the team, while their weaknesses have the least impact. However, your control over who you have on your team may be very limited.
There are many different leadership styles and many different leadership positions. The two don’t often fit together – at least, not at first.
Depending on what task you are given for you and your team to achieve, you might not be able to be the kind of leader that you always wanted to be.
Sometimes the leadership style that you prefer or are used to don’t fit the current objective and you will have to tweak your approach a little to make it work. Whatever your preferred approach is, be sure to tweak it rather than abandon it. The best leaders are leaders that are confident in their own abilities and their own direction, and trying to make yourself into something that you aren’t will never work.
Being a good leader requires great personal strength, and you will find that you can make certain aspects of your leadership position entirely your own. Unfortunately, however, society views leadership as an entirely personal venture.
To be the best possible leader, you will need to develop your personal strengths, but you will also need to consider all of the factors that you are going to be dealing with that are larger than yourself.
As you approach a leadership position, be sure to know the history of that position in the company, the people that you will be working with, and what exactly will be expected of you. After that, consider finding ways to situate yourself within this environment. Only then will your personal strengths be able to shine.
What Makes Great Leaders
Whether you’re trying to get a leadership position, or you’ve just entered one and aren’t sure what to do, there’s nothing wrong with wondering what makes great leaders.
It’s a question that many have asked for strictly practical and strictly academic purposes. Books have been written on the subject, so feel free to do more research, but this article will try to point out just the big ones.
Good leaders are focused. That doesn’t mean that they are focused on a single thing so much as that they are focused on networks. To be a good leader, you have to understand yourself, you have to understand the people that you are leading, and you have to understand how the strengths of yourself and your team members can be best used to complete the task at hand.
While you may try to focus solely on the problem at hand, this may lead you to miss ques happening all around you. If you are a problem-oriented person, make time to dwell on the problem but also make time to think introspectively about yourself and how you are approaching the problem as well as time to spend talking and working with your team members to make sure that everyone’s strengths are being utilized.
Focusing on yourself is also important because in order to be a great leader you need to know yourself. As mentioned above, knowing your team is important too but as a leader you will serve as a uniting force that directs their strengths towards the goal. This will only work if you know yourself, have confidence in yourself, and move with a consistent direction and purpose.
Finding your leadership style can take a lifetime, but hopefully you already have your own personal style figured out. It’s okay if it matures with you – in fact it probably should – but it should be consistent enough that your team can follow your lead without getting dizzy.
Being a good leader also requires communication skills. We often think of leaders as being charismatic or effective speakers, and while this is an important part of communication, it is only half of it.
Sometimes communication means rallying the troops and encouraging your team to work harder or to think more creatively.
Sometimes, however, communication means listening to your team. As a leader, you and the members of your team have one common goal, but you are likely to approach it in very different ways. Staying in touch with your team is an important way to learn about the progress that they are making as well as the obstacles that they face and possible ways to remove them.
Of course, being a leader often means needing to make tough decisions. A recent study, however, suggests that good leaders all make tough decisions very consistently.
More specifically, good leaders make decisions that impact others the same way that they make decisions that impact themselves. This suggests skills like empathy – being able to relate to another person’s emotional state – as well as the ability to make decisions based on the good of the project rather than the good of individuals.
It also means seeing yourself as a part of the team. As mentioned above, the roles of leaders and other team members can be different. Both, however, should be seen as instruments of achieving the goal. A leadership position isn’t more important than a team position; a leadership position is a team position.
Different leaders have drastically different styles. To become a great leader, you shouldn’t have one great leader in mind because you will never be able to be that person. Rather than focusing on role models, focus on yourself and on developing your own strengths.