I do not promise to give definite responses. I only intend to broaden the discussion.
Lots of discussions are currently taking place …
Yes, I know. Books are being written, on-line discussions are taking place on reliable social networks, seminars are given, congresses are tapping into the subject (gurus fight for the “X” competencies a leader should have, coaches advise on the “Y” mistakes a leader should not make, top influencers present the “Z” attitudes a leader should exercise daily etc. etc.)
“Want-to-be-a-leader” people are frantically trying to isolate the past (models, styles, schemes) and look into the future. What are the new characteristics for a leader to thrive in 21 century? What should she keep from the past “blessed” prototypes and combine them with which exactly modern leadership trends? Is leadership something to develop during a lifetime or is it just “genes”? Does it have a “masculine” or a “feminine” flair? A proportion of the two may be? Questions go on and on, easily adding up to a book of 400 pages at least.
… provoking dozens of varying approaches
The answers are – obviously – twice as many as the questions. And yet, no concrete global approach is unanimously established. Pretty normal, I would say. If you’re in search of the magic recipe, the clear answer, the secret “door” to successfully enter the world of leadership, you are most probably losing your time and confusing yourself. You might think a lot, read a lot and talk a lot about leadership, but still the puzzle is not solved. It cannot be solved. There cannot be a “once-for-all” answer. Simply because conditions are different and further changing, people attitudes get altered, global and local characteristics evolve, new needs arise, new trends make current practices obsolete. This is happening every day, every minute at an unprecedented speed.
Not even a clear definition?
Ambiguity, insecurity, complexity are the new rules of the game. You have to be ready to deal with these with authenticity and integrity. No university course, no high level seminar, no mentorship relationship can show the only and unique path to follow in order to obtain the necessary leadership “skills”. It is a personal in-depth search, a never ending visionary pursuit, a long term effort. It is a Marathon. Run in a different way from place to place, organization to organization, era to era. You learn as you go, you become more intelligent as you make mistakes, you get stronger as you lose battles, you build your self-esteem as you strive for the benefit of the others.
Then you may become a leader. With no particular position or title. Just a leader. In other words, a person people would like to know and talk to, share thoughts and experiences, disclose feelings and problems. A person they trust. A person they respect and appreciate. A person with a profound added value to their lives. You can be a leader with no particular title and no top position; you should be a leader without those. Although official definitions may include concepts like “being followed” and “guiding” via a hierarchy…
Make the right question to yourself
Can I become a leader? Yes and no. It always depends on the relation of one’s personality with the circumstances around him or her. It is time and place and context relevant. It heavily depends on the motives.
The real question is not “Who is a leader?” or “How do I become a leader?”, but “Why do I want to be a leader?” Is it just to satisfy my ambition, to receive congrats from my relatives, to cause the envy of my “friends”? Or does it have to do with the role and the societal contribution of my short-term existence on earth?
A leader is an example of power creator and giver. Accepts her lack of knowledge and gets involved in a never ending learning process. Tries hard, makes mistakes, acknowledges them and corrects them. Listens more than she speaks. Understands in and out of herself.Shares.
A leader is always there to face the unpleasant occasions, be fair and strict at the same time, and celebrate in common the wins of the team. A leader uses “we” stemming from her inner conscience, NOT because it is in fashion or a “must”.
If you’re a manager, you’re not necessarily a leader!
It always makes me angry to listen to people “baptizing” managers as leaders. Managers are not leaders. Let’s take it for granted. Managers are managing a business, a project, a process, a product, a team under a well-defined structure with well-defined goals.
Leadership, on the other hand, spreads all over the place, is delicate, challenging, soul and mind consuming, and with an interchangeable bitter/sweet flavor.
You won’t become a leader until you have people voluntarily supporting you and following you. How do you understand? Give people the opportunity to express themselves sincerely with no consequences.
Leaders are self-created. None ever became a leader because he was given a title or a position. Positions do not make leaders; Leaders give value and content to positions. Leaders have something deeper & wider than just emotional intelligence and fighting spirit: a strong people orientation for everything they do.
Respect to this special “species”
Real leaders are real human beings. Which means they are afraid sometimes, they do not know everything, they get disappointed, they shout and they cry. But their dedication to the people around them is what keeps them standing when their feet are heavy.
Real leaders do not have to speak about their successes; their successes speak for them.
Most of all, real leaders know when to step down and when to get in.
There are thousands of real leaders around us that have no particular title or position; there are even more people around us with impressive titles and outstanding positions that do not present any leadership quality at all. Nevertheless, they call themselves “leaders”.
Real leaders – wherever they stand – worth our respect. Top title “no-content” people deserve our contempt.
After all, it’s leadership not “ladder-ship”.
If you are a manager, recall how you have been selected / promoted
Mainly based on hard skills, years of experience, educational background, and so forth. Does any of these directly entails leadership capabilities? NO.
So, don’t be in a hurry to name yourself a leader. Let the others make you feel so. When they ask for your advice, when they expect your input, when they feel safe to challenge you, when they love being with you, when they appreciate your contribution.
Remember: Leadership is not a position or a title; it is an attitude
By the way, don’t get misled: As Daniel Goleman excellently mentioned, despite the rapidly changing world circumstances, “the fundamentals of leadership will not change. The reason: leadership relies on mobilizing human skills”. Always has. Always will.
Now, ask yourself: Are you a real leader?
As promised, no definite replies from my side on such a huge topic…