Do You Want to Become a Great Leader?
How you think about leadership has a profound affect on your success in becoming a good leader. We all have our individual idea of what a good leader is. Then we assume that everyone thinks the same thing. And that is what gets us into trouble.
There are three parts to this:
- What do you think makes a good leader?
- What is leadership?
- How can you adjust to be a good leader for others?
What Do You Think Makes a Good Leader?
When you think of the best leaders you’ve ever experienced, what were their traits? Were they organized? Were they decisive? Were they fair? Were they nice? “In charge?” Inspirational? Ambitious? Smart? Successful? Charismatic? Make your list.
We idealize leaders. We want them to be what we think a leader should be. There is a bit of magical thinking about leaders—they are supposed to be what you want them to be, regardless of who they are or what their style is.
In the United States, we want our leaders to be out there in front—leading the charge. That kind of leadership is considered inappropriate behavior in some other cultures. Leaders actually come in all shapes and sizes. When you do the above exercise–asking what the traits of good leaders are–in a large group of people, they don’t agree. Each has his/her own vision of what a leader should be. This comes as a surprise to the people in the group, because we all assume that what we believe is a great leader is universal. If you ask the group WHO have been great leaders, they generally agree on a (very) few–Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Lincoln, but can’t come to agreement on others–Jobs, Bush, Welsh, for instance.
So What is Leadership?
Leadership is more than just a person and who/what/how that person is. It is results. It is situational. It is followers. It is removing barriers for people. It is connection. It is behavior. It is communicating. It is clarifying. Leadership is the combination of all of these. It is a process that combines all of these.
The leader is the instigator of this leadership process. The leader is the instrument that stimulates and regulates the process. The leader does not have to be a certain kind of person, but rather has to have the skills to manage this process and to integrate the elements of the process to achieve the results.
Now, rethink the people who you think are the best leaders in your experience. How did they manage the elements of the leadership process? Didn’t they do all of these steps well enough to get the results that the organization needed?
How can you adjust to be a good leader for others?
Reframe the way you think of leadership. Think of it as a process instead of a particular way of being. When you think of it this way, evaluate your ability to accomplish the skills of the leadership process. How can you get better. Depending on the results you need, the followers you have, the situation you are in, you need to remove barriers, communicate, clarify and adjust the integration of the leadership levers until you get results. By thinking about it this way, it becomes a much more manageable task than if you have to have a personality transplant or develop charisma in order to be a great leader.
This view of leadership allows you to continue to ‘raise your game’ until you are a great leader. Practice the skills that need development, hone the delivery of these tools, and learn to adjust to the situation and the followers.