Thoughts on Leadership
In my career in the US, Europe and now Asia, I have been very fortunate to be a part of and even lead diverse teams in and from most parts of the world. I have had the honor to work with many great leaders (and some terrible ones) and watch and admire many others from a distance. Here are my key thoughts on leaders and leadership. I hope you don’t find these thoughts too basic or repetitive, or even see some as aphorisms; they are what I use to judge others and, most importantly, myself.
Leaders aren’t born, they are made – Although some people may seem to have been born with certain characteristics that make it easy for others to follow them, leaders come from all kinds of people, introverts as well as extroverts. Do not judge a person’s potential in leadership by the outward appearance or behavior in a non-leadership position. True leaders are created and tested by the opportunities and challenges in life. Create those opportunities for others and see what happens.
Leadership has nothing to do with rank or title – While in some places like the military, rank is very important to keep order, leaders can be found anywhere in an organization. The reverse is true as well, just because you have a title or position, does not mean you are a leader. Leaders are accepted as such and people choose to follow them – regardless of position. Enable your team members to rise to the leadership challenge.
Leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders – By definition, leaders have to have followers, but true leaders do not think this way. The primary purpose of a leader in business is to provide for the survivability of that business. Therefore, a true leader focuses on creating and nurturing other leaders. If a leader is solely focused on amassing followers, he or she is not focused on the right things, most likely only on his or her own ego. Make sure it isn’t about you, ever.
Leaderships is about getting the best out of people – Everyone is different, take advantage of the strengths of your team. The best way to get the most out of people is to enable them to rise to the occasion and stretch out of their comfort zone and to inspire them to achieve even beyond their own internal limitation. When a person overcomes a difficult challenge, they get an amazing feeling of achievement, sometimes even surprising themselves with what they were able to do. Make this possible for everyone in your team.
Leadership is not about instruction, but coaching – You are not there to instruct others in their tasks. Unless you are leading a very junior team, the members are there for a reason – they know their jobs and what needs to be done. Focus on helping them overcome their challenges; teach them to understand and play to their strengths. We all have weaknesses and the beauty of a team is that others can pick up where we are weak. High performing teams use the strengths of each member to the best and don’t focus on the individual weaknesses. Offer constructive criticism, but coach your team members to be their best.
Leadership is a fulltime job – Leadership is not something you turn on when you step up to the microphone or open a conference call. Leadership is about all of your actions at work and in your personal life. Every interaction you have is constantly judged by others and whether consciously or not, they are asking themselves, “do I respect and want to follow or (more importantly) be like this person?” Increasingly these days, personal and professional life are equally available on the internet. Your actions in your off-work time is readily available to be judged in the same way. Be mindful of all of your actions and interactions and ask yourself if you would respect a person who acted in this way.
What are your thoughts on leadership?