The current supercharged political environment in the US, marked by seemingly unending upheaval, caused me to think about what makes a leader and whether any of us could be one if we chose–or whether we should be if we could. No, this post is not a political diatribe. It’s not even about politics. It’s about leadership.
I’m not going to try to present myself as an authority on leadership, especially not when there are countless scientific (and some non-scientific) studies on the subject and many books, articles, and reports you can read. This is mostly my own observations and thoughts about the subject.
To me, a leader is someone who can motivate and guide others to achieve a desirable goal, whether it’s in the business world, the political scene, or another venue. He or she does that without dominating others or tearing them down–doesn’t try to build himself or herself up by making others look weak or labeling them as failures. If you can do this, I’d view you as a leader.
If you haven’t considered yourself as a leader in the past, how might that change going forward, and why?
Maybe not everyone is cut out to be a leader. Then, too, some of you might have leadership capability in certain situations and not in others. Personal and professional growth can occur by exercising leadership ability at appropriate times, so even if you haven’t considered yourself as a possible leader, I believe it’s worthwhile to spend time thinking about that.
In some circumstances, you could actually find yourself cast in the role of “reluctant leader.” By that, I mean that you’re in a critical situation where someone needs to get the ball rolling and no one is stepping forward to do that.
It might help if you take a few minutes (preferably longer) to consider the qualities and abilities you have that could enable you to function as a capable leader in the right situation. For instance, are you good at guiding change so that others are encouraged to go along with it? Can you manage disagreements (conflict) so that a consensus can be reached? How well do you empower others to take action?
Finally, if you’re up for acting as a leader part of the time but don’t want to do it all the time or feel it’s not what you do best in all situations, how good are you at stepping back from a leadership role when someone else is well suited to tackle it?
Although I said this wasn’t a scientific presentation of the topic, I have done reading over the years to educate myself about what experts are saying. Most recently, that led me to an article in Harvard Business Review titled “The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World.” The article presents 5 themes related to leadership:
Interestingly, none of these points says anything like, “Drives revenue and profit increases,” “Spearheads achievement of market dominance,” or other statements of that nature. Leaders certainly might do those things, but maybe that’s not the essence of what makes a great leader or even a good one. Food for thought.