Leadership skills can be learned and leaders evolve.
I’m not of the school of thought that leaders are just born. Yes, some people may be born with more of the innate skills that make leadership easier. But when it goes unchecked or uncultivated properly, an air of authority, self-discipline, drive, and determination can turn into arrogance, entitlement, a dictatorship environment, or even fanaticism.
For every accomplished leader, there are thousands that can only aspire to the levels of success they attain and it’s not for lack of trying. I should know, I spend every moment trying to be better and most of the time failing. But it’s in failing that you learn and grow the most.
It's the art of motivating a group of people toward achieving a common goal. Sounds simple enough. In reality, it’s one of the most difficult and frustrating things to try and achieve on a consistent basis.
Most leaders can be developed, built up, coached, and trained. Yet, there are a lot of things that need to happen before they are ready for leadership. Success, failure, a huge amount of hard work, discipline, and a burning ambition to succeed in their chosen field.
It's a skill, not a personality trait.
Where this gets distorted is that a lot of people in positions of leadership have found their way there because they have been the ones who have shouted the loudest. It’s programmed into us from a young age. Just look at school sports teams.
If you had a team of children with 4 or 5 stand-out performers who all have the same ability, it will generally be the one who is the biggest, strongest, or loudest who gets handed the captain's armband.
Typically, in corporate management programmes, companies pit candidates with similar levels of skill against each other to see who can solve problems or gain control of situations. Inevitably this is done by dominating a conversation and forcing others to follow your way of thinking or bend to your will.
All you achieve by doing this is perpetually picking the most “dominant” people in an organisation, who in my experience don’t always make the best leaders. Many of the quieter harder working individuals can get overlooked which is where organisations are missing out on an untapped resource right under their noses.
So what do you need to be looking for in good leaders?
- Experienced success and a proven track record of being able to achieve this over a long period of time in any market condition.
- It is natural for them to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions, both good and bad.
- Ability to develop people and teams around them, have empathy, give advice, encouragement, and all without needing to take even the smallest bit of credit for it.
- Complete trust and transparency in everything they do.
- They are always looking at how they can improve. Do they want to learn and get better?
Fortunately, you don't have to reinvent the wheel if you're a leader. The leadership stories and lessons of others can help you to level up your skills. Seeing what works and what doesn't is an effective way to build your own leadership style and toolkit. Over time, you'll find what fits your personality and role.
Ultimately the best leaders are always trying to improve their teams, the individuals in them, themselves, and the business. They are constantly striving for more, setting an example, and pushing the boundaries of expectations.