Leadership is a term we bandy about sometimes like hot dogs at the ballpark on a hot summer afternoon in the middle of August. Occasionally we hear a mantra to hold our people accountable so we can create a climate of change and move the team forward. When the smoke clears, amid a selection of clever cliché and hyperbole mixed with a well placed metaphor, the message is clear. Leaders get told that they need to get out there and be better leaders and achieve their goals.
In my program the “L” in leadership stands for LEARN to lead. For someone starting out the rallying call to “be a better leader” doesn’t always include a “how to”. The expectation is that after years of education and life experiences everyone has been a leader and taken a group forward to a successful outcome. Two and a half decades certainly is enough time to explain to a tenured team mate how their doing the job all wrong and how to do it better, despite never being told why they need to do it in the first place. A powerful leader tends to explain the “why” behind the how to their team. This is how the team becomes aligned with the company vision.
Learning to lead is something very plausible for everyone. The path one may travel requires occasional reflection on what being a leader truly entails. By simple definition everyone leads when executing any action which ends with an outcome which required someone to step forward and take charge of the group. Positive or negative when we take action we’ve expressed a willingness to lead and when we involve others we’ve done it as a team. It doesn’t need to be complex. My mother has flawlessly planned and executed hundreds of family events while displaying leadership that few can scribe onto their resume.
Learning to lead is a skill set. Make no mistake it can be learned. For some it will develop naturally or be a bit more involved like learning calculus. Understanding the fundamentals of any skill is part and parcel with how well we can master it. Respect what you don’t fully understand and embrace the opportunity it presents. There are some challenges that come from putting yourself out there as the “leader” and in some circumstances the act of becoming a leader is as much the path we’re seeking as it could be a random situation. There are moments when someone needs to step up and become assertive enough to get “it” moving, so the team takes action. Recognize the value that time and experience brings to the table as you search for a mentor.
There are also many intangibles to becoming a strong leader that are honed along the way. Successful leaders may focus their style on their ability to communicate and influence others. Other may establish thrive from the status of being a subject matter expert when taking the reins. Taking calculated risks are we test our tactics will allow avenues for feedback.
There are several books which illustrate strong leaders and styles of men and women who have been recognized for their leadership. Take action on your behalf and work hard to hone those skills.
Here is a brief list of three books I recommend:
Good to Great: by Jim Collins (2001)
How to Win Friends and Influence People: by Dale Carnegie (2009)
Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, And Why People Follow
by: Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie (2009)