Leadership is not about a title but your actions and qualities. To be a leader, you must have people following you and people rarely follow other people if they haven’t seen a reason to. For leadership to be effective, the people must want to support you. You need to be the person people choose to follow if given an opportunity to make a choice. How do you achieve this?
Working Towards Leadership
Being a leader is nothing if no one wants to follow you. Even if you are highly skilled but no one respects and follows you, it is not leadership at all. While some are born leaders, leadership is a skill that can be learned. You need to be teachable as you work towards becoming a leader. Be ready to make adjustments. A leader has to be able to see things from different point of views and be able to empathize with others. On that note, welcome to class.
1. Figure out where you are going
What is your vision? Where are you going? What do you want to achieve for yourself and for the people you intend to lead? Knowing where you’re going enables you to figure out the path you plan to take and to attain your goals eventually. Otherwise, it will just be the blind leading the blind.
Teams need direction, and by you having direction in your own life, they are likely to work towards the direction you point them to. You will however, need to explain the path and envisioned result clearly.
2. Be accountable and trustworthy
Leaders are not beyond reproach. They need to remain accountable to their teams, allow room for questions and critiques where necessary. Being accountable keeps leaders from falling into unnecessary pits and relieves them of the burden of making decisions single-handedly. You must still be decisive enough to make tough calls, and the people should trust that you will make the right choices when caught in a tight spot.
Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose. That’s what makes trust so precious and something that should be guarded well. Keep your word at all times and when you cannot for whatever reason, be sure to humbly explain yourself before your followers come asking. It takes a lot of strength and humility to accept failure, and if done right, these same traits make a good leader worthy of following.
3. Set the pace
Leaders show and lead by example. They don’t let their followers do all the donkey work and take credit for it. They participate and show people how it is done without showing off or overshadowing the rest.
Sometimes you may need to lead from the front as you show your team the way. You may also need to step back and lead from the back as you guide your team to achieve their goals, empowering them too.
4. Give room for growth
An environment that provides room for growth is an exciting environment. Followers also need to feel that they are gaining from your leadership. They need to feel free to improve and grow as opposed to stifled and restricted. Your leadership must inspire them to want more for themselves and to go out and get it.
5. Rewarding followers
What is work for if there is no reward at the end? What is the purpose of committing yourself to a person if there is nothing more to it? Rewards for a job well done go a long way in instilling confidence in the follower’s abilities. A follower that is confident of their abilities performs even better when called upon to do so.
A reward also assures the team of their place on your priority list. They know you see what they do and you value both their work and them as individuals. This keeps them loyal to you as a leader.
6. Learn how to manage conflict
Where there is more than one person, conflicts are bound to arise. Teams disagree, followers could choose to go in different ways, and things could go south very fast. Quelling conflict with as little damage as possible is a necessary skill.
You need to be sensitive to your team’s needs as they air their grievances. Listen to what they are saying and read between the lines. Don’t take sides as this will aggravate one party more.
Figure out how to bring both sides on the same page and keep them there.
To pull all this off, you’ll need to be firm but kind. Remember to be human in all that you do. You are not above reproach but are definitely in charge. Stand tall and confident in your leadership role as the confidence oozes and infuses into your followers. It will take time, effort, and commitment but it will happen.