There is a wide variety of different interpretations on what it means to be “a leader”. A countless amount of literature has been written about leadership: how to recognize it, how to improve upon it, and what leaders around the world have done that others can learn from and on and on. But there are certain leadership truths that we may have forgotten over time and could certainly prove to be useful. While it’s important to learn about leadership through a broad spectrum of resources, there may be some things you may have missed.
It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position. – John Maxwell
There are many different types of leaders. You will most likely encounter several them throughout your lifetime. Formal or positional leaders like politicians or religious figures receive a lot of status that gives them the power to influence how others think and act, often almost as if they have unquestionable, superior intelligence. Informal leaders like our grandparents and elders don’t receive as much attention as their formal counterparts but often, they also share a similar degree of influence if we think about it. Some people have so much wisdom, knowledge or experience and their influence can change other’s lives for the better even though we do not know them personally. These are Level 5 leaders; Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg to name just a few.
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes but effective leadership can be distilled down to several basic styles. Look closely and you’ll find that formal and informal leaders practice a combination leadership styles.
Leadership develops daily, not in a day. – John Maxwell
Although some people might seem like natural born leaders, like all skills, leadership is a learned behavior and like all things, you can learn the skills related to being an effective leader. Leadership skills can be learned by attending seminars, workshops, conferences and through executive coaching.
Learning takes place best when there is active application. Much like learning to ride a bicycle, acquiring knowledge of how to lead may be important but it is in the application of the knowledge where the skills are really acquired. Practice the skills you are learning as a leader in your daily interactions with others. Leadership is after all a “people skill”.
You do not become a leader overnight. Life-long learning is important in developing your leadership skills as each day brings new experiences that test one’s knowledge, skills, and attitude. The more opportunities you cultivate to learn, the better your chances are at becoming the kind of person who naturally and effortlessly inspires and leads others wherever you go.
To become an effective leader, you must first develop and cultivate your own skills as well as your character. Who we really are is not who we are when we are at our best. Who we really are is who we are when we are at our worst.
If you wouldn’t follow yourself, why should anyone else? – John Maxwell
If you want to be a leader, you have to be willing to learn the skills that it takes to bring together a team of people. The best way to develop leadership skills is in how you lead your life. An effective way of becoming more confident in your leadership skills is to develop these skills on a personal level.
As a well-known proverb says “Actions speak louder than words” and as leaders, our actions reveal us the most. Leaders are always in the limelight, whether or not they like it. Leaders need to interact with others in the right way and for leaders, all relationships are important and building relationships enhances the level of trust and respect that people have towards them.
Leaders should always be aware that their credibility depends largely on their actions – how they manage their responsibilities as well as how they approach others: from friends and family members to people who work with them every day. Basically it comes down to how people experience being around you. Making good habits part of your identity will always help you build strong character traits which can only serve you well when it comes to leading other people.
A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other. – Simon Sinek
Leadership is not just the responsibility of one person. It is a team of people who work together as a cohesive group to help each other achieve common goals. They often form these teams under formal leadership but that’s not always true or what effective leadership really is. Rather, it’s everyone working to achieve something great individually while also helping one another reach team goals.
As the leader make sure you’re delegating and delegating well the responsibilities among team members because really, what matters most is that everyone knows how their efforts can contribute to achieving excellent results that’ll benefit everyone involved. Effective leadership can only really unfold if everyone plays their part when it comes down to contributing towards the success of the business or project at hand. Great leaders have great leadership qualities but also encourage and inspire those around them to become better leaders. They earn respect by empowering others and sharing knowledge and responsibilities. A good leader knows how to work well in a team and encourages others do the same.
A team often starts as individuals with various skills and diverse backgrounds coming together to achieve a common goal. An important part of the team building process is learning how to work together as a unit, which requires mutual respect from all of the team members involved. When mutual respect exists between everyone on the team, it creates an environment where trust is fostered among all parties creating a successful team based on collaboration. When you establish trust, members of the team are more likely to open up and feel comfortable expressing their ideas and holding each other accountable.
Well-developed social skills are essential for good teamwork, good leadership, making good decisions, and building rapport with external and internal stakeholders. Remember that sometimes in order to achieve big things you have to do little things right.
The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails. – John Maxwell
Why is it that dictatorship works in some countries and not in others? Aside from culture, beliefs, value system, and form of government, a country’s current situation can also affect the leadership styles used by its formal leaders. Most times, leaders employ a combination of leadership styles depending on the situation. In emergency situations such as periods of war or calamity, decision-making is a matter of life and death and often decisions must be made quickly. This prohibits consulting everyone and involving them in the decision making process.
There is no rule that only one style will work in every context, although usually leaders try to employ a mix depending on the situation at hand. Even in countries like the United States of America which claims to be democratic and should follow majority rule most of the time, an effective leader doesn’t always have time to sit down with everyone on their team before deciding about what they need to do – and asking for their permission first (especially when lives are at stake).
You cannot expect to have the right type of leader for every single occasion. Instead, leaders are more or less called upon to use different traits and skills whenever called upon by unusual circumstances brought about by challenging situations such as war or natural disasters like floods or earthquakes for example. As long as one is adaptable to change and able to make clear decisions – effectively and promptly – then good leadership can be maintained.
A different style of leadership is necessary for organizations in times of peace and an apt combination of coaching, supporting, and empowering approaches is highly recommended when working with highly motivated, competent employees. In short, an enterprise should be allowed to self-govern if the staff members possess all qualities of competence along with an aptitude for commitment. However, businesses that consist of unmotivated workers or ones who aren’t ambitious enough to want to succeed will need a more intensive combination of coaching, support, and highly directive behavior from those at the top.
It’s easy to get caught up in your everyday responsibilities. Try to remember that being a great leader is something you constantly need to work on; both for yourself and for the people you lead. With time, you will come to know that having this mindset is one of the best ways to ensure that you can always grow as both a human being and as a leader – no matter what happens.
Learn more about how to develop your leadership skills: Effective Leadership
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