When at work or involved with other organizations, do you get frustrated because things don't seem to be getting accomplished as you would like them to be? You see staff, fellow members, or co-workers busy as can be but nothing is being done. And in the daily hustle and bustle, do you feel that your goals remain just that – goals. Then maybe it’s time for you to stand up and do something about it.
Most people are content just to stand around waiting to be told what to do. Very few will show and take initiative on their own. It’s so easy to adopt a follow-the-status quo mentality – go along to get along. But maybe, somewhere inside of you, you feel the desire to make things happen – to be the head, not the tail. Then maybe leadership just suits you fine.
Some people believe that leaders are made, not born. For whatever reason, they have the notion that people come from the womb prepared to take charge. Shame on you if you aren’t one of the chosen few. Yes, it may be true that some people are born with natural talents. However, without practice, without drive, without enthusiasm, and without experience, there can be no true development in leadership. For those who don’t agree with me, I dare you to lock up a new born child in a room for life and never allow them the opportunity to interact with other people. I promise their leadership skills will be none existent.
You must also remember that effective leaders are continually working and studying to improve their natural skills. This takes a commitment to constantly improve in whatever endeavor a person chooses. Leadership guru Warren Bennis says, “No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders. So, the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – to make your vision a reality. You must withhold nothing. You, must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”
Next, let's define leadership. To be a leader, one must be able to influence others to accomplish a goal, or an objective. He/she contributes to the organization and building of a team. John Maxwell states that being a great leader is all about having a genuine willingness and a true commitment to lead others to achieve a common vision and goals through positive influence. No leader can ever achieve anything great or long-lasting all alone. Teamwork goes hand in hand with leadership. Leadership is about people-and for people.
Contrary to what most people believe, leadership is not about power. It is not about harassing people or driving them using fear. It is about encouraging others towards the goal of the organization. It is about getting everyone playing from the same sheet of music and helping them see the big picture of the organization. The challenge is you must be a leader not a boss. Boss is a 19th century term which gives the impression that you know and can do all. That’s impossible in today’s organizations.
First, you must get people to follow you. How is this accomplished?
People follow others when they see a clear sense of purpose. People will only follow you if they see that you know where you are going. Remember that bumper sticker? The one that says, don't follow me, I'm lost too? The same holds true for leadership. If you yourself do not know where you're headed to, chances are people will not follow you at all.
You yourself must know the vision of the organization. Having a clear sense of organizational structure, knowing who the decision-makers are, who to talk to, the organization's goals and objectives, and how the organization works is the only way to show others you know what you are doing.
Being a leader is not about what you make others do. It's about who you are, what you know, and what you do. You reflect what your subordinates must be. I once worked for someone who didn’t measure my leadership ability while I was in the office, but by the effectiveness of my people when I was away. A good leader prepares his people to accept personal responsibility for the outcomes of the organization or department.
Studies have shown that another identification of good leadership is the trust and confidence your subordinates have of you. If they trust you they will go through hell and high water for you and for the organization.
Trust and confidence is built on good relationships, trustworthiness, and high ethics.
The way you deal with your people, and the relationships you build will lay the foundation for the strength of your staff. The stronger your relationship, the stronger their trust and confidence is in your capabilities.
Once you have their trust and confidence, you may now proceed to communicate the goals and objectives you are to undertake.
Communication is a very important key to good leadership. Without this you cannot be a good leader. The knowledge and technical expertise you have must be clearly imparted to other people.
Also, you cannot be an effective leader and unless you have good judgment. You must be able to assess situations, weigh the pros and cons of any decision, and actively seek out a solution.
It is this judgment that your subordinates will come to rely upon. Therefore, good decision-making is vital to the success of your organization.
Leaders are not do-it-all heroes. You should not claim to know everything, and you should not rely upon your skills alone. It’s not necessary that you be the smartest person in the room. Remember, why have a staff if you have all the answers and can do it all. Empower good people and get out of their way. They will let you know when they need your input.
You should recognize and take advantage of the skills and talents your subordinates have. Only when you come to this realization will you be able to work as one cohesive unit. Trust the process.
Being a leader takes a good deal of work and time. It is not learned overnight. Remember, also, that it is not about just you. It is about you and the people around you. Leadership is something that you never truly master because different people and situations require new strategies. What worked as a leader with one group of people today may cause you to fall flat on your face with another group tomorrow. We see it happening in organizations every day for people unable to alter their leadership strategies.
So, do you have the drive and the desire to make a difference? Do you have the desire to work cooperatively with other people? Then start now. Take your stand and be a leader today.
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