When I first started my career move into Executive and Leadership Coaching 8 years ago, a dear friend of mine asked me to publish my very first article on the topic. He also asked me that if I was to define leadership in one word, what would that be. I said influence of course. But then upon further reflection, if I had to describe it in one word, I would say that leadership is ownership. I believe that leaders are made, not born. It is my opinion that leadership is an attitude, and a choice. You need to want to be in the front. You need to be OK being daring and willing to experience the heat.
It is also my firm belief that in order to be an effective leader of others, we must first be effective leaders of ourselves. Self-leadership is important as it provides us with a developed sense of who we are, what we can do and where we are going, as well as our ability to influence via our communication and actions. It is not just an outward process, but an inward one. It involves been able to influence and drive yourself in order to perform, which can lead to many benefits, including improved job and overall life satisfaction, improved efficiency and mental performance.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John Maxwell
The world needs leaders more than ever before, and I want to emphasise to you the fact that anyone can be a leader, provided they own it. If companies are not only to survive, but thrive in today’s global uncertain times, the outdated concept of traditional management needs to be replaced by a new breed of leaders. New generations no longer want to work in exchange for an income alone. They seek purpose, they seek to be healthy, happy and fulfilled, and won’t hesitate to leave your company to find one that makes them feel like their contributions matter, and they feel part of something bigger than themselves. With such a deep degree of uncertainty and global change, organisations that remain complacent will be left behind for not having adapted to today’s needs. Leadership will bring about the facilitation of the change and evolution needed to not only keep up, but thrive for organisations that are wanting to stay ahead. And we need leaders to help us successfully navigate through it all.
So are you a leader? And most importantly, do you want to become one, and really own it? What does this process involve? Let me share 6 fundamental steps that I believe are crucial as a starting point:
You must always start the process with self-leadership, by having a vision of where you want to be both at work and in life, then setting goals to help you achieve it. Work towards achieving that vision and clearly communicate your work vision to everyone in the organisation. Let them see how passionate you are about it, and why you care so much, and they will join in helping you achieve it. Often employees lack an understanding of what the vision really is, and what is expected of them in order to assist in achieving it.
You need to be the one who wants to do the leading, not the following, encouraging and motivating everyone around you to realise their true potential and bringing out the best in people. You need to inspire everyone in your path to grow and improve, helping others be confident in their ability, no matter what role or at what level they play in the organisation.
A leader spends time mentoring and coaching employees to make decisions confidently and to solve problems, allowing room for mistakes to be made and lessons to be learnt. This is the best way to create a team of responsible people that will raise to new heights and will deliver outstanding results, even when you are no longer there. As a leader you need to release all power and control in order to make room to let others grow. Contrary to belief, as you watch them grow, you will grow to unexpected heights yourself. Leadership is about openly sharing information, fostering trust among employees and inviting their feedback and opinions, creating a continuous growth mentality. That’s the real legacy that a leader leaves behind.
Believe that they have the potential to grow and do better, always. If people know that you firmly believe in them, they will rise to the occasion and deliver great results. Care about people and in return people will choose to be led by you. Compassion and empathy are powerful traits in any leader. Nurture your people and the skills they posses to exceed expectations. Encourage and motivate them to want to do and be more than they currently are, and to publicly recognise them when they do.
“True leaders don’t create followers…they create more leaders!” – J Sakiya Sandifer
Show integrity and always do what you said you would. Maintain an ethical approach to how you conduct yourself at all times and be honest. People around you will respect and appreciate you for it. Lead the way by displaying a positive attitude and do not allow bad attitude from anyone. Action any lack of performance or negativity head on, and show no tolerance for it, no matter who they are or how long they have worked for you.
Get involved and be prepared to take risks and make mistakes. Be authentic and vulnerable, and allow others to do the same. Practice humility in everything that you do. Help them understand that great results are not possible without joint collaboration, and share credit with the team. Be enthusiastic about new ideas and initiatives, no matter how crazy or impossible they may seem at the time. One of these ideas may be the one that takes the company to a new level of success. Keep an open mind and question everything, always keeping in mind the purpose as to why things are being done. Embrace change and help others feel at ease with it too. Being adaptable and open to doing things differently will bring about fresh new perspectives that will keep employees focused and motivated at work. If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you always got.
As a leader, ask yourself: “How can I be the best version of myself? How can I have an influence on everyone around me? What can I do to make a real difference? What real problems are we facing, and what can we do to overcome them? What difficult decisions do I need to make?”.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
We need leaders to make this world a better place. Organisations need great leaders to make work a better place. Own leadership, and people will be happy to be led by you.