Are you a leader? You might think that this question is all about whether you are a boss or in charge of a local club or organisation. But actually, we all have the potential for leadership at different times in our lives, whether or not we have a fancy title. And – as I’m sure you know – some bosses are pretty hopeless leaders. They are simply managers, which is not the same thing at all.
The clue is in the title. A leader is someone who leads another person or a group of people towards a goal or a positive outcome. And a good leader is someone who does this in their followers’ best interests, rather than to trick them to do something that is only going to benefit the leader. Psychologist Daniel Goleman puts it really well. He says “Great leaders inspire us and bring out the best in us”. So whenever you inspire someone and help them to achieve something they thought difficult or impossible, you are being a leader. And you can be a leader just as much at home with your family and friends as you can be at work.
There is a great book on this subject called “Leadership Plain and Simple” by Steve Radcliffe. He identifies the following three key steps to true leadership:
It’s impossible to be a leader unless you know what you want to lead others towards. What is the goal you want them or the team to achieve? It is this first step where many managers fall down. They don’t give enough thought to what true success would look like! They just want to keep things ticking over, following all the rules and regulations and keeping themselves from getting into trouble. You can always tell a manager who is not a leader by the amount of getting cross and telling others off that they do. But suppose you’d like to go on a trip to London with all your friends. That is your vision and it’s a good one because hopefully all your friends are going to enjoy the trip and have a great time. How will you encourage them to come on the trip and help you organise it? By shouting at them? Or by inspiring them by telling them all about the good things that are going to happen as a result? It really is no different in the world of work.
People only want to be led by people they trust and either like or admire. And the only way to win another person’s trust is to engage with them – to build up a relationship over time through friendship, support and encouragement. It’s no use waiting until the moment you need to find someone to help you achieve your vision and then trying to win their trust. It takes time and effort to build friendships or to get to know your staff properly. You don’t have to do it, of course. But you’ll never be an effective leader if you don’t!
Having a vision about something you’d like to achieve and selling it others are essential to leadership. But without action, nothing will ever get done. Some of that action will be up to you and it’s important that you show the way by doing your tasks on time and to the best of your ability. But great leadership is mostly about asking others to help you by delegating tasks and making sure that everyone involved wants to play their part in achieving the goal
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