Over the years, I have come across many great articles that define a leader and what qualities they possess. I have shared many of these attributes in some of my blogs. Sometimes, leadership positions are given to those who do not deserve or those who are totally not prepared for it. I have made various mistakes including, giving leadership to someone who wasn’t ready. Having learnt from my mistake, I have chosen to write this blog and help those transiting into leadership positions or those who have had leadership thrust upon them.
Whilst we are still trying to find an answer to the question of whether leaders are born or made, one thing is for sure, you must prepare yourself for a leadership role. Is it possible to prepare every day for leadership? Yes, it is! You must prepare to lead and be led whether it’s within the home or work-place or business environment. But how can you prepare yourself to lead?
There are a few steps that you can consider as you prepare more effectively to lead.
Be a leader, not a manager. What’s the difference? Leaders inspire, motivate those working ‘under’ them or with them while managers mostly administer. A leader will innovate or set new targets/goals/objectives and even challenge the status quo, while a manager maintains the status quo, specializes on conforming to the already set standard while directing the team to achieve various tasks. You know you are a leader when you have followers; A manager just has people working for or under them. Desire to be a leader.
Teamwork: How well do you work with and in a team? Are you the type that waits for others to do everything? Do you take the lead role and distribute workload across all members? Or do you take up all the responsibilities because you do not trust your team-mates to deliver effectively? Potential leaders and leaders themselves must learn to deliver through others. Let go of certain areas of expertise so that you can empower your team to deliver results. Remember you have been or are being promoted because of your enthusiasm, intelligence and ability to get things done. Your job is to achieve results through others and not do their job for them. Lead your team to deliver results.
Accountability: Whilst you were only accountable to yourself, you are now accountable for others and yourself. Their mistakes become your mistakes and that is something most leaders need to understand. Pay attention to your team and their concerns because lack of doing that will only result to you getting frustrated as you try to move forward with a dysfunctional team. Rarely will employees communicate the need for additional support, more tools, better resources and/or assistance with other employees. However, you have been entrusted with a team, it’s up to you to guide, support, empower and trust them to do their best. Be accountable.
Seek to learn from and understand your team: An effective leader doesn’t have all the answers but manages to make good decisions most of the time based on input from others. Listening to the team, understanding their thought processes and taking the time to explore possibilities is important. Show your team that you are open to their ideas, empower them to take lead roles and ownership of projects, let them understand that it’s okay to make a mistake and help them learn from it. It’s the only way you will be able to move together as a team and be efficient. Listen, learn, understand.
There are many factors to consider when taking up a leadership position and I may not cover all or most of them. Mine is to get you to think and want to be a great leader and not just a manager. You must know the balance. As a leader, drive to create value; drive to serve people; drive to understand and learn; drive to mentor, empower and create followers; drive to use your imagination and be innovative; drive to be unique and independent; drive to be fair and respect all; and finally drive to lead by example.
In the end, prepare your team to successfully deliver what is expected from them. Create a balance between empowering your staff and leading by example. Whatever your style or method, you need to believe in yourself, your ideas and your staff. No one can be successful alone. A leader needs followers, but a great leader ensures he has great followers. Allow failure to guide you and your team rightly.
‘Leadership is not about you, it’s about others.’