If you believe leadership is for others then think again. In different circumstances, we are all leaders, whether at home, in the community, in the workplace, or in any other setting. At times we may choose to lead and at other times, in different circumstances, we may choose to follow.
When we show passion, commitment, or determination we can often propel ourselves into leadership roles. This is because leadership is not just about a position or elevated status. In such circumstances, you may be a boss but you may not be a leader, because leadership is much more about mindset than position.
The simplest definition of a leader is a person who has followers. The foremost attribute of any good leader is a positive mental attitude. A pessimist would never have reached the moon. The great medieval adventurers and explorers. Marco Polo, Columbus and Magellan were leaders whose positive attitude and firm conviction inspired others to trust and follow them. Like all good leaders, these renowned explorers needed to be able to communicate their sense of positivity to their followers. Being a good communicator is, therefore, another essential attribute, as a leader needs to communicate effectively and convincingly with followers.
Having a strong, well-communicated vision is at the core of leadership. As a member of your local sports club, you might have a particular view about the club’s future development but you need to have a vision that stands up to critical scrutiny. And if you are to recruit followers you will need to effectively communicate your vision to others so that it resonates with them and thereby win their support.
But leaders need to lead their followers in some particular direction. A person with a vision is not necessarily a leader. A leader is a chief, a guide, a director, a commander, a governor but a good leader is one who inspires others to action. Good leaders are action-orientated who seek to implement their visions with the assistance of their supporters. It is a fact that a dream without a plan is just wishful thinking. Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time-Joel A.Barker.
Action-orientated leaders must have an implementation strategy with clearly communicated goals to implement the strategy. They are focused on goal realisation and driving change. To do so they will need to be trusted by followers and also be trustworthy, so being a capable communicator is at the very core of leadership at all times.
It was Socrates who said; The unexamined life is not worth living. Perhaps an exaggeration, but nevertheless predominately true. In the context of leadership, we tend to respect leaders who present as being authentic and real. Good leaders never fake sincerity and know that they need to be transparent in both word and action. Their credibility is sustained by their authenticity.
We tend to follow leaders who can show humility and we respect those who can admit their mistakes. Self-awareness is as important as self-belief and good leaders are constantly engaged in self-appraisal. How often have we seen leaders grow in arrogance and tumble from their towers? Genuine and sustained humility is a characteristic of good leaders and showing fallibility is not a weakness if they can learn from their mistakes.
People follow a leader they trust, but a leader needs to maintain that trust which is his or her bedrock of support. A sports team manager needs the support of the team members as well as his/her employer. Leaders need to stay in tune with the needs of their followers and they should never forget that they lead people, who in turn must feel that their leader understands them. It is vital that leaders show empathy with others who are critical to the leadership role. Listening, hearing and understanding is the other part of good communication.
Having a strategic mindset, being solution-orientated, and demonstrating a good capacity for resilience are other important, convincing leadership attributes that win over followers. This requires leaders to be flexible and adaptive and hence good leaders may need to show different leadership styles to suit the prevailing circumstances. In my latest book, How to Bring Your Best Self to Work-Strategies for Career Success, I have twelve chapters that address some different leadership styles of competent leaders.
Leadership styles may vary from leader to leader or from situation to situation. Transformational leadership for change, adaptive leadership for flexibility, empathetic leadership for hearing and understanding concerns, inclusive leadership for building emotionally-safe workplaces, ethical leadership for focusing on the common good, servant leadership for prioritising the needs of others. And there are others!
Leadership styles change and evolve. Leadership in a digital world places new demands on leaders to be visionary, strategic, adaptive, flexible, and much more. In every age, the challenges facing leaders are changing and how the leader manages in a fast-changing world will be the true measure of real leadership.
Finally, we can say that good leadership is reflective of sound character, is honed by experience, and is communicated by example.
I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think-Socrates.
(Feature photo by Alfred Alously on Unsplash).