Leadership gets paid a lot of lip-service these days. Every day I see at least three posts or articles regarding the top umpteen things that successful leaders do, or don’t do.
Despite all the discussion around the subject and all the people labelling themselves “leaders,” there are far too few instances of true leadership in business.
Although we hear extensively about all the innovative, forward-thinking examples of leadership, they’re still the exception rather than the rule. The challenge isn’t understanding what leadership is, but enacting it.
What is leadership?
Leadership isn’t about having power, it’s about sharing it and providing the support necessary to use it appropriately and effectively. Leadership is about people rather than tasks.
Leaders recognise each individual’s strengths, experiences and how they can contribute to successfully achieving the expected outcomes.
In a leadership-oriented environment, people are valued for their contributions, no matter how small. They are engaged and developed. Communication is multi-directional, so no matter the role, everyone has a chance to speak and be heard.
Communication is the number one tool of an effective leader and it involves more than giving direction. It incorporates conveying expectations, providing future-focused feedback, coaching, listening and ensuring that the messages being heard are the ones intended.
All of this has been said before, so why are there still more people practising command-and-control style management than not?
How to truly lead?
True leadership involves honestly assessing your intentions and capabilities; a willingness and ability to give up a measure of control; allowing others to take risks and make mistakes so they can develop personally and professionally; caring about others and their success; and understanding that communication is about what is heard, not what is said.
This is tough as most people act with good intentions. They often believe they are practising leadership rather than management. Often they’ve done little more than add “please” or “thank you” to the end of a sentence (which is a good start, so please keep doing it).
Often those in authority exhibit true leadership behaviours momentarily, then quickly revert to what makes them feel more in control. It can be hard to let go of the reins when you’re responsible for the outcome.
Everyone is capable of leadership, but it doesn’t happen overnight, as it’s a skill set as well as a mindset. It starts with a desire to see others succeed and to build real relationships based on mutual trust, integrity and respect.
You have to be OK with others being better at some things than you are and accept that no one is good at everything.
A good leader must wear many hats—coach, captain, teammate, sounding board and open-book—although not all will fit comfortably.
Most importantly, to quote John Wooden, “Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.”
So ask yourself, “Do I want to lead or be in control?” Because that’s the dilemma.
Allison Kirkland is an experienced manager and trainer/facilitator. She has a passion for strengthening the community, locally and globally, through the betterment of the people in it, and believes that when people love what they do, they will do it well and attract the like-minded. For more Consulting Corner articles, click here.
Leadership can sometimes be an extreme thing that people do. An epitome of a true leader is never about themselves, but about others. Read about the leadership of Mother Teresa and Mahatma Ghandi by clicking here.
Leadership is hard. Many mistake leadership for power. But to lead is to both inspire and to direct, to listen and to talk. Leadership is to be great at being strategic but also being great at execution.
Leadership requires humility but it also requires assertiveness at times. Leadership is a challenge as it requires us to not only have the competence and skills but also to know when to use each skill.
Allison Kirkland argues in her article that leaders wear many hats. But more than wearing hats, leaders need to be clear how to make the right decisions at the right time.
Much is expected of leaders and much is made of leaders. Every fault is usually traced back to the leader and the leader faces numerous struggles with their time, priorities and obligations.
Yet, we all know that “everything rises and falls with leadership.”
To truly lead, leaders must go back to the roots of why they took up the leadership challenge in the first place. Leaders grow weary from leading but if they take moments off to rest and reflect, they will recall the reasons they first aspired to be leaders—to make a difference!
Consistently remembering the purpose of your calling enables you to move from being a leader that leads through authority and getting things done, to a leader of love. Most leaders take on the leadership challenge because of their deep love to help, inspire and make a difference to the people around them.
Kirkland argues that the leadership dilemma is between being in control or leading. I would take it a step further to argue that it is between being in love with the community you serve (and leading) or being in love with yourself and thus serving your needs.