Leadership Hinges Upon What You Do - Not Who You Are
February 9, 2017
TopicsChange Management, Character-based Leadership, Inspiration, leader, Leadership, Leadership Development, Management, team, Teamwork
There are hundreds of thousands of resources that tell people about what it takes to be a leader. Everyone has an opinion on how it should be done. Studies have been conducted to prove that leadership is achievable. Former leaders are emulated.
Current leaders serve as inspiration. But leadership is a combination of some tangible things and some less tangible qualities. Leadership is a constant grind that one has to work on every day for the rest of their life – if they want to keep being leaders, that is.
How do you turn yourself into a leader?
The answer may be easy: lead. But how do you do it? What does it take? Do you have to be a born leader as they say?
First of all, you become a leader by working hard to earn that position. It takes a lot of guts, initiative, and creativity to become a great leader. Although another leader can bestow that position upon you, it is up to you to make use of it in the best way possible.
A born leader is one who is foisted upon that position like a son or daughter or a legacy, an inheritor of a large conglomerate, to name a few. No one is born as an actual leader. One can be brought up as a leader, though. And one can also be trained as a leader even towards the last days of their lives. There is no starting point and there is no deadline. When you are ready to be a leader, you will become one.
What should you do in order to become a leader?
You have to act on it every day. Even when you are not at work, you have to work at being a leader. If you can handle it in your sleep, be a leader there as well.
Measure yourself, not your position
Although achieving a high position in an organization constitutes recognition of leadership, the two do not always go hand in hand. Sometimes, people get promoted due to work input, while others are given the position because they are a great fit for it.
When it comes to being a leader, do not look at your title as a measurement. It will only demoralize you when you compare it to not having a higher position. Being the valedictorian, getting the highest scores on the SAT test, getting an executive entry-level position? Those are not measures of your worth as a leader. Just doing what a leader does is enough to boost your self-esteem and get ahead in the game.
Innovators are not necessarily leaders
You do not have to invent something or develop a theory that can change the world to consider yourself a leader. You have nothing to prove in that regard. However, if you do have a revolutionary idea, you can use it as a stepping stone to train yourself on how to build an organization out of it.
By then, you will be automatically looked up to as a leader. Unfortunately, discovering something and leading its journey are two different stories. Just remember, you can be a leader without creating something and you can always learn how to become leader if you are about to give the world a helpful product or service that you pioneered.
Leaders are not necessarily inspirational figures
Little kids may see Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg as great role models, but it is not necessarily good to focus only on leaders with intensely public visibility. Inspirational leaders are not just successful and intelligent. They also need to have a positive moral compass and a consistent personality.
That is not to say that Zuckerberg and Sandberg are not great role models; however, not being able to know who they really are will not serve you well. Inspirational figures are unassuming mentors. They don’t know that you look up to them, but you know yourself that they are someone who you want to aspire to be.
This means that when you finally become a leader, reflect the footsteps of the leader who set an example in terms of good values, work ethic, decision-making, and management.
You cannot become a leader by yourself
To lead is to guide followers. To lead is to take advice from other leaders. To lead is to work with other people in accomplishing a mutual goal. You have to value the people who are with you, especially the ones who are contributing to your efforts to become a leader.
In order to do this, you need to learn how to listen and disagree when the situation calls for it. You have to be open to other people’s ideas and share your own as well. Don’t carry that mountain on your shoulders alone. Let others help and ask for it when you need it. Even when you do not need any help, you should still ask because it shows that you value the people around you.
Plan how you can become a leader
Actions require you to take steps. These steps are the key to achieving your goal. By planning your life ahead of time, you can design a system where you can consistently act and do your part as a leader. Even if you are not yet in a position of power, it is still necessary to work on your leadership skills.
An example of a plan is this:
- Assess your weaknesses and strengths
- Work on the negative and improve the positive
- Record one achievement everyday
You can design your own plan any way that you want. The main thing to remember is that you must plan a life that is based on leadership and the way of life that leaders live.
Reward yourself. Don’t expect rewards from anyone else
Your reward does not have to be materialistic or expensive. A small reward like a well-deserved meal or time off to spend with your loved ones is all that you need to give yourself that boost for accomplishing a leadership task.
A promotion will not be as rewarding as what you can truly give yourself with the fruits of your labor. Once you become a leader, do not stop rewarding yourself. Just make sure that you do not do so in excess.
Solve your own problems first, rather than letting someone else lead you to it
The marker of a true leader is their ability to solve issues starting with themselves. A small problem can easily be remedied and that can count as a proactive achievement for you. Soon, you will be helping others and working with them to solve bigger problems that can help the make the world a better place.
Just do not forget to ask for help and guidance. Doing the work is easy enough. Admitting when you cannot take it anymore is much more noble and is the oxymoron of being a good leader. Know when to solve your own problems and know when to finally let someone else take the reins.
Learn how to be a follower
It may sound contradictory, but this is the most important part of learning how to be a leader. Put yourselves in your subordinates’ shoes so you can find out what they need, what they want to learn, and what they want to accomplish as individuals and as a group.
When you finally look through their eyes, you can also see the good and bad components of your leadership. These go hand in hand because it tells you what you are doing right and what you can improve on. All in all, empathy will be your strength, as well as your company’s.
Acting Like a Leader
Since being a leader means having to act like one, you must also understand what motivates a person to do what needs to be done. As a leader, your subordinates will follow you. Before becoming a leader, you need to follow your current leader through the motivation they give you. Learn from that and apply it to your own style.
Self-awareness is also important because it reflects on your employees and other leaders. It will benefit them to see that you know what you are doing and that you are showing it in a transparent way, such as announcing reports, engaging with each member of the company, and accomplishing your own tasks efficiently and quickly.
The motivation to be a leader will stem from the motivation of your followers to treat you like a leader and follow in your footsteps. You cannot be the only leader forever, which means that you should also be giving everyone a fair chance to act like leaders themselves.
That is what true leadership is all about – helping each other climb up the ladder, rather than stepping on other people to get to the top.
Thanks, Eliza, for this thoughtful and down to earth article. I appreciated the focus on ignoring some of those typical leadership myths, starting with me, and emphasizing behavior over some special title or quality.
Good that you raised the issue of “negative” leaders as sometimes we’re hesitant to go there when discussing leadership. Doesn’t fit the narrative we like.
Despite years in the workplace, I’ve never accepted the premise that having the “big” job automatically makes someone a leader (as I define leadership). Sometimes, the hierarchy demands followership yet the individual’s performance falls short of being someone we want to follow. We respect the job but not the jobholder.
I love the way you cover so much of the leadership role in your article. Adding links to other articles is also a nice way to expand learning. Thank you. For which resonated most with me I would say that to be a good leader you first have to be good follower. I have been saying that since my very first experience in working for an organization. Good leaders are also good followers – they haven’t forgotten where they came from and they are humble enough to know when it’s time to step back a bit and let someone else lead.