So You Are A Leader, Huh?

It’s one of those cliché, throwaway terms that has become as much of a ‘must have’ to a professional as owning a small dog is to a socialite & a having tattoo is to an urbanite. Evolution towards the American ‘self-sell’ employability-pitch style, with the advent of reality TV shows like The Apprentice, also parenting shows such as Supernanny, tells us we have to be credible leaders. In many aspects of our daily lives, society now expects us to demonstrate proven leadership skills professionally and socially. Yes the currency of ‘leadership’ has become embedded into our cultural currency.

My work in strategic performance improvement prompts me to drive people development strategy, learning programmes and the facilitation of learning, based on the following simple principle: inspire people towards a goal and bring people with you. The latter part is where wannabe leaders drop off. Parents who start off setting down the law to their kids then realise they may as well have been talking to a wall. Managers who give direction to their teams & realise that the team adopt their own way when out of sight. Some leaders mean & start well but get carried away and ‘check-out’ from the Leadership 101 class along the way.

Far too often I find that wannabe leaders concentrate on the ‘kick-off’ – they assume that their skills should be displayed in project-managing, organising, delegating, decision-making, & instructing. All of these are sub-skills of leadership, however they are not the ‘magic’ it.

Show Me The Magic!

  1. Have something insightful to say that you’re certain will be of valuable to your audience & inspire them to do something differently. If they ask how, then you show them a way forward, gaining their buy-in.
  2. Starting off any task without people buy-in is tantamount to leadership-suicide.
  3. Every experience is chequered with risks, issues, unforeseen challenges – be ready to steer change; provide the insight (mind-set) and action, which will see past the stumbling block and move towards the originally foreseen benefit.
  4. Periodically undertake engagement activity that will ‘check’ them back in (in other words determine that they still believe in the vision, approach, perceived benefit) – if it falters, encourage them to see your way. Maintain the momentum. Sorry this can’t be left out – its leadership-law!

Think about the leaders you know at work, in the public eye, in your personal life – review which of them fall flat at the get-go?  Which ones start well then flag? Which ones are so fantastic at it they appear to be God-like? Review whether they focus on (or are they successful at) bringing people with them?  Bet you the successful ones do. *gloats*

Being a leader isn’t a job description or a title – leadership is a state of being. People in your environment are the ones who should endow you with the title of being one. It’s simple-concentrate on the value that a leader should bring – the feedback you want people to say about you. A quick litmus test of a whether you are a great leader is whether you do all of the list below:

  • Inspire the attainment of a task
  • Create an appetite for the perceived  benefit 
  • Work out how to get people there
  • Keep people absolutely focused on the prize
  • Deal with change
  • Bring people with you throughout

All the other words of applause that people crave from being a leader will easily fall out from achieving the principles above. Really.

Take a moment to reflect on your leadership – what end of the scale do you sit at? The reality-show end of visionise-organise-and-tell or on the SpiritedStrength end of bringing people with you? How do you bring people with you? Changing your focus could change your results. Or your decision about whether you really want to be a leader. Or not!

It’s a perception changer, isn’t it?


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