Making Of A Leader
Have you ever made a decision? I am sure you have. The very fact that you are reading this article is a reflection of your decision to learn about leadership. You may wonder, how this simple act can make you a leader. Only this act will not. However, a number of small qualities, habits and decisions that add up to make a good leader. Some of the key qualities to be a leader are integrity, self-awareness, empathy, communication, courage and respect. A leader also has a vision that he/she believes in and is able to influence others in a positive way to work towards achieving it. All said and done, a leader sets an example by putting their best foot forward that sets them apart from others.
Leaders are not only the big names that we see and read about. Think of a person working on a piece of art like a painting or a book. If this person has to excel in the task at hand, he/she needs to have a vision of the end product, self-awareness about their work and the integrity to live the plan they have put together. Let's look at one more example of a small team at task working relentlessly to achieve their goal of delivering software to their customers. Now this team may do it well if led by a person with better leadership qualities or just about meet the mark. If the person in charge is able to build enthusiasm and have the team work with a single minded focus, he/she is definitely a leader and a good one. We may think Leadership is a title, it is important for us to realize that it is an example and action.
Let's see how are these kind of leaders are made. One may think that some leaders are born to be leaders. I would like to bust this myth. Of whatever studies I have done about leadership, leaders are always `brought up'. The values that sound simple to write and speak are not easy to live by and it takes a lot of effort and grit for the values to be rooted in the person's psyche. The best time to inculcate values to become part of character is of course childhood. You will almost always find that people we consider as leaders will have this in common through parenting, mentoring or the societal influences.
A key characteristic of a good leader is an open mind. A good leader knows how to keep the team together and to implement the strength of each member for the benefit of the entire team and the achievement of the common vision
To make a much stronger leader, one needs to be self-aware and manage themselves in ways to make the most of the qualities they already possess. If we take the example of Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln or Subhash Chandra Bose and study their lives, we will find that while their circumstances were similar to many of their peers. They turned it around with their vision of a better future and their strong communication by evoking the emotional aspect. That is what made them such great leaders.
Another very important aspect of being a leader is continuous learning. In fact, if a person has a vision for learning and is true to it, continuous learning can make up for any lacuna in the upbringing years. Learning may not necessarily come from books or courses. Life is a great teacher and it is important that one learns their lessons by reflecting back and imbibe them.
A key characteristic of a good leader is an open mind. A good leader knows how to keep the team together and to implement the strength of each member for the benefit of the entire team and the achievement of the common vision. This is completely against the notion that leaders need to be always authoritative. A leader at best needs to create environment for people to find the best solutions and then align the entire team to achieve that goal and vision. One of key elements thus turns out to be active listening and empathy. A leader must be a good listener to understand what the team is sharing about. This one element is a differentiator between an average and a great leader. Your team will go to any lengths if they are sold out to your vision and the only through this is to care for them, which is not possible without listening and empathy.
While a leader provides an environment to nourish individual team members' strengths and aspirations, he/she should have the courage to take decisions when required and stand by them without shrugging off any responsibility. This creates immense loyalty within the team and results in miraculous outcomes.
There are different ways or styles that a leader can adopt with some of them being dominant these can be authoritative, supportive, coaching or laissez faire. A good leader will always adopt a style that is suited to the environment and the current circumstances the team faces. Especially in a corporate situation, where it is easy to observe leaders, you will find that the leaders you commend more will have these different styles in play based on what they are dealing with.
To conclude, we must understand that no one leader is an ideal leader. We are all humans and are bound to make mistakes as we go along the journey of leadership and life itself. However, the best leaders move from strength to strength learning from their mistakes and turning them into opportunities for themselves and their teams.
Wish you all the best in your leadership journey.