Leadership is a hard thing to develop consciously. And it’s hard to know the type of leader you need to be.
You may have an idea of how you want to lead in certain circumstances. However, as situations change and reality unfolds, you begin to see that there might be a gap between who you’d like to be, and who you’ve become.
Leading is more complicated today than ever before. Good leadership forgoes the tendency to anticipate what might happen tomorrow while forgetting about what is happening today. In other words, leaders try to outthink and overanalyse the future. And it’s impossible to stay ahead of tomorrow’s problems, mainly if you’re putting off today’s. Good leaders find a balance between contingency planning and delivering results.
Leaders don’t just think about the future, they think within it. They have a clear picture of what they want to see and where they want to be and why. And then they begin to mould the world around them to achieve it.
Here are four more leadership lessons worth learning for your career:
Leadership isn’t a title. It’s a decision.
Leadership isn’t role related. You might get promoted, be ‘given’ responsibility for a new project or authorised to make certain decisions. But none of that makes you a leader. You decide to take responsibility and use influence to achieve that makes you a leader. You’re a leader when somebody follows you no matter what title you have. And most of the time, they do so because you’ve made difficult choices that others have shied away from. That’s what leaders do.
The solution to ‘poor’ leadership is more leadership.
It’s easy to blame ‘leadership’ for the way things are because it takes the blame off oneself. With that said, the problem that exists is how each person contributes to the problem. If you have a toxic leader, for example, it’s not up to HR to “fix” them. It’s up to every person around them to start leading and fill the gap. Every person who doesn’t challenge the status quo is contributing to the problem. Every person who more trusts in their team but doesn’t speak candidly in meetings is part of the problem. You get what you give, so talking with candour yields trust.
Ask questions that call for direct answers. Avoid making statements, that don’t encourage solutions. Poor leadership doesn’t exist because people are malicious. It exists because nobody has taken the time to develop people as leaders.
Leadership is hard to quantify.
Leadership is hard to measure because people have different definitions of what it means. Without a shared definition of success, it’s difficult to say you were successful. Leadership isn’t good, and it isn’t bad. It’s not inherently positive or negative. Effective leadership doesn’t spring from a noble purpose. Instead, it’s most often measured by the achievement and process. Neither good nor bad, leadership is a tool that serves as a guide toward intention. Leadership is authentic self-expression that instils value in others and compels them to act.
Another reason leadership is hard to measure is that when it’s going well, there’s nothing to measure. It’s much easier to identify something that’s not working well than something that is.
Leaders aren’t lone wolves.
As ‘solo’ as the concept of leadership seems, leaders rarely serve as lone wolf contributors. They know that extraordinary results don’t come from “me” but from “we.” Collective efforts must unite toward a shared purpose. When you start a new business, you don’t go it alone. You enlist the insight, advice and support of others. Smart leaders are smart because of the people they rely on and learn from. And great leaders know when to let those people contribute, take ownership and shine.