I believe there’s a lot of confusion about this word and its meaning. When we hear it, we all think about successful business men, politicians, people who are the heads of something, and the rest of us just follow them as cattle (at least, this is how it’s seen from the outside.) But leadership implies much more, and the good news is that you can learn how to be a good leader.
So, what does it mean to be a leader? Let’s start from the beginning, from the definition of leader: it is a person who leads a group or a social, political, religious, etc. movement. Taking this definition into account, whoever is at the head a group is a leader. And indeed that’s how it is, on the surface at least. But, have you ever been in a situation in which your group is “led” by someone who clearly is not a good leader and whose “true” leader is actually someone else? As I said, being a good leader implies something more than a title.
Leadership is a quality that needs to be recognized in us. It’s not enough to have self-proclaimed leadership, or simply having our turn at the helm. Being a leader is something that needs to be recognized in us by others.
There are people who are born with the natural qualities of leadership. Think about when you were a kid at school; there were kids that soon were the center of attention, everybody wanted to play with them, captains of the sports teams… Maybe these kids were not smarter or better students than the rest, but they had this natural quality to be the center of attention wherever they went.
Other people just don’t want to be leaders. They want to remain anonymous and don’t clamor for the attention. This is as it should be. I can’t imagine what kind of world this would be if everybody tried to be a leader. But, there are always some moments when assuming a leadership role is more than needed and then we must each be prepared to take it on, but how?
A good leader accompanies and helps you get the best version of yourself without forcing anything. A good leader is not jealous and never thinks another person will take his leadership away. One of the best things that can happen to us at work and in our personal sphere is having a good leader around us. These people make you think, “One day, I want to be like this.” They make you try harder, whatever your task is.
If you are a leader, you are an influencer. Putting both words together is redundant. I can’t understand the expression “influencer leader” that goes on some resumés today. I don’t know if you think this way too, but these two words together make me shiver, and I get the impression that the person using them is trying to mislead us.
A leader is a person who influences how others do things, how others perceive their worlds, someone who manages to make others change their ways of thinking and acting. Can you imagine a leader who is not an influencer?
The ways of the leader are inscrutable. There are some exceptions, as mentioned before, of these people, such as those who really stood out in the crowd right from their childhood and were destined to lead. But, mind you, this doesn’t necessitate a leader’s being a tyrant. You can learn how to be a good leader in the same way you can learn almost anything in this life.
A good leader is a good communicator. He knows what he wants and he knows how he wants it, and, what’s more important, he knows how to inform the team, no matter if it’s a work team, a sports team or his life-long friends. He’s got a strategic vision and walks two steps in front of the rest of us and, of course, he is agile enough to change and adapt plans as required.
A good leader is able to manage the human complexity of the team members. He can coordinate them, as good orchestra conductors will coordinate individual musicians to sound as a whole. To be a good leader, one has to be a good listener, especially to what is obvious and what is not that obvious. Sometimes, rivers gives a sign before it breaches. It’s the same with teams and their leaders, who need to read these signs before it’s too late.
Leadership can’t be imposed
When a leadership is imposed it happens as in nature. Two deer fight for territory; one wins, the other one loses. The winning deer takes it all, herd and territory; the loser leaves with its tail between its legs. But this doesn’t mean it won’t come back and fight at any other moment, maybe when the current leader is out of shape. Though it doesn’t exactly work this way in complex organizations. In organizations, not everybody can assume a leadership role that’s not his (or hers), even if he has won the battle, because this might lead to unnecessary team friction. Again, one is not a leader because he says so, but because others see leadership in him.
Knowledge of the roles
To be a good leader, you need to know in detail the roles of every member in your team. This is because of two main reasons: you need to know what to expect from each member (in order to hire the right person, to fix their personal objectives, and to solve conflicts.); and you need to keep in mind these roles to schedule, lead, and evaluate the global objectives as a team, and to bring the team to a successful result.
It’s not difficult to know the team roles. It’s even possible to let others recognize you as a natural leader, and it is, moreover, possible to have the interpersonal communication skills. It won’t happen from one day to the next, of course, but over time, and with personal work and effort, you might become the leader you want to be.
Again, it’s very important to remember an obvious point: Not everybody can be a leader, you can learn the skills, but there are some people who, for one or another reason, don’t want or don’t have the skills to become a leader.
There are people happy being gregarious, working from the second row, and who are not willing to take on any responsibilities beyond the minimum. That’s cool. Can you imagine a world where everybody wanted to be a leader? I can’t. I don’t want to.
And a final reminder; distrust “Influencer Leaders.” They’re just making smoke.