During the last several decades I’ve had the chance to interact with various types of leaders –professional, political and social – both great and small. As I observed each of them I was able to see the leadership principles they put into practice that made them the leaders they had become. As I continued to observe them, I uncovered several recurring themes regarding leadership success that put to rest many of my initial assumptions about leadership and who could became a leader. I also came to realize that many others also shared the same mistaken assumptions which ought to be corrected.
1. Are Leaders born or made?
Many of us may look at the political, professional or social leaders of our time, or those of the past and believe them to be born leaders – Lincoln; Eisenhower; JFK; Reagan, MLK, and we think they were born leaders. Very few leaders, if any, are born. They each made a decision at some point in their lives to learn and master skills of Leadership
They had drive and determination to become people of consequence. They honed their skills to become important leaders in their respective field. Admire them, not necessarily for the talents they were born with but for the determination they had to make their life count and mean something.
2. Is Being a boss automatically make you a leader?
Many people mistake their new found status of being a supervisor, business owner, new executive or entrepreneur as one of true leadership. The Boss that says- “do as I say, or else” or “if you want to keep your job you better do what I tell you,” -that boss is nothing but a bully who has lost control of the situation and who does not have the ability to influence her subordinates to act.
As the saying goes, if you’re leading and no one is following you then you’re not the leader. If you have to force others on the job to do what you want, you’re not the leader. If you’re constantly in conflict on the job with your boss, co-workers and subordinates, you’re not a true leader. If no one can follow where you’re leading, you’re not a true leader:
3. Do You have to be in a supervisory position to be a leader?
Many employees mistakenly believe that because they are not in an ultimate decision making position that they can’t become a leader and their thinking may stem from various reasons:
- The office environment: your boss or direct supervisor, doesn’t allow for leaders to emerge – perhaps your boss is a control freak or is insecure about his own position;
- You feel that you’re not being paid enough to flex your leadership muscles – and that you’re only going to do what you’re paid to do;
- You feel that you’re not educated enough and that your co-workers have more education and/or experience than you
- You believe that people don’t trust or respect you enough for your voice to matter;
- You may believe you have a voice but you’re waiting for your boss to discover your talents and approach you.
Begin today to chart your own course. Look at how you approach your job, your relationship with your supervisor or co-workers and see if there’s something you’re doing or failing to do that is hampering your professional growth. Don’t wait to be at the top to be a leader. Start in your group meetings and department projects but remember it’s not about control or telling others what to do. Improving your leadership skills as an employee will make you stand out over and above your peers and gets you ready when the next promotional opportunity comes available.
4. Is Leadership just for the boardroom?
By becoming a better leader in your business you can transfer these skills to bring more happiness and joy into your personal life. You can take the leadership helm in your own home. It is not about control, coercion or alienating others. It’s not about being a know-it-all or telling others what to do. It’s about developing the proper skills that will influence people to want to work with you; it’s about sharing clear and persuasive communication that will lead others to want to be their highest and best selves; it’s about finding your own passion and encouraging others to find their own. It’s about better relationships with your parents, spouse, significant other, children and grandchildren. It’s about charting a success course for those who depend on you- whether at home or in your professional or social organizations.
It is possible to have success on the business front and transfer these leadership skills to all other areas of your life, that is, if making those changes are important to you.
Are there other erroneous assumptions about leaders? Add your voice to the discussion by commenting in the box below.
There is an MPA degree online for those who are interested in government leadership.