What Is Leadership?
A typical leadership definition looks something like this: “Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives.” Yukl, G. (2001)
We prefer: Leadership means being the best person you can be in the service of the goals and aspirations of the organisation or community that matters to you.
How do I discover what I stand for as a leader?
Basically, this is the ‘Who am I?’ question for leaders. That is, your values, principles and purpose as the leader. Consider these questions:
- What is important to you about leadership?
- Why do you want to lead?
The more clearly you can articulate these answers to yourself, the more likely you are to behave consistently and communicate what you stand for to others.
How do I define where I am heading as a leader?
This is the vision and aspiration question. Having a compelling picture of the future, that you are optimistic about, will help you to excite others about future possibilities and the role they might play. But before you communicate it, you need to identify it (even better, develop it with the people you want to help!). Consider these questions:
- What is the perfect future your want to create for yourself and others?
- What role do you want to play?
- How do you want to collaborate with others while you do so?
How do I understand what kind of leadership is most needed in my world?
It can usually be found in understanding the gap between where your organisation or community is right now and where it most wants to be. Consider these questions:
- Where is the need that is not being filled?
- Where is it that your community or organisation most needs to be better?
- What role can you play in fostering that success?
- What capacities are present that you can build on?
- What talents can you bring to the table to help this process?
How do I bring others with me?
Successful leaders are able to influence others to focus their efforts in the direction of the important goals for the organisation or community.
This means understanding the people you are leading and being able to communicate the future in a way that resonates with them. That is, it makes sense in terms of how they see the world and what matters to them.
It also means making sure that the leadership behaviours you model on a day-to-day basis are admirable and consistent with what you are asking others to do. That is, making sure that what you say and what you do are the same.
How do I know if I am ready to take on a ‘bigger’ leadership role?
- You are doing well but need a larger challenge for your own development.
- You are in a time of rapid change where there is a need for leaders to step up to the challenge.
- You would like to make a bigger contribution in the areas that matter most to you.
The key to a successful transition is your self-belief in your ability to be successful and getting the support you need to make the transition most easily..
What are the leadership fundamentals that I need to master?
There is no one simple answer to this question as there are many ways that people can be a successful as a leader; and there are many different requirements for leadership depending on the environment and challenges being faced.
The more important questions are:
- What kind of leader do you want to be?
- What kind of leader does your organisation or team need you to be?
How do I manage my strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
There is no such thing as the perfect leader – all leaders have flaws. This is normal. What is important is understanding clearly what you are good at and finding a way to manage the rest. Leadership is not a solo pursuit. Great leaders are smart enough to surround themselves with the people they need to cover their blind spots so that they can make their best possible contribution.
Have some way of getting feedback on your performance as a leader. You can reflect on your actions yourself, ask for feedback about a specific area from your team or work with a mentor/coach. Taking as little as an hour per week, to learn in this way, will make a significant difference.
How do I know if I am a ‘real’ leader?
If you are like most people, you probably define ‘real leadership’ in terms of someone who is already outstanding in a leadership role. These people, however, are usually near the end of a long journey of development as a leader. Therefore, they are not usually not the best yardstick to compare ourselves against.
The truth is, you become a ‘real’ leader when you commit to the leadership journey, to being the best leader you can be. It is then that you join the community of leaders and it is then just a question of how you develop and grow along the way.
Why do I sometimes feel like a fraud as a leader?
This is actually a question of confidence. A simple definition of confidence, is ‘the level of certainty you have in your ability to succeed at something’. Unfortunately, leadership often involves ‘creating the map as you go’ and not knowing the answer from the start. This is normal but can, of course also lead to a lot of doubt..
This does not mean you do not know how to do your job. It just means that your yardsticks of excellence need to change. You do not need to be ‘all knowing’ and perfect to be a leader. Rather, it may be better to view yourself as a scientist, who is experimenting with others, to fill out the map and find the best way forward.