Leadership, or the lack thereof, has been receiving a lot of attention over the last few years but, let’s face it, it’s a fairly woolly topic. There are as many definitions of leadership as there are people. Personally, I define leadership as the ability to look forward and clearly see the future you want for your organization, communicate this throughout the organization and to enable people to achieve it.
Of course, notwithstanding differences of opinion, the definition is the easiest part. How does one actually develop themselves sufficiently to become an effective leader? With a lot of hard work – but, in the meantime, here are three key elements that good leaders develop over time:
A good leader has a very honest understanding and appreciation of who they are and what makes them tick. They are relatively consistent in both their behaviour and their message and are seldom swayed by the current breeze blowing e.g., they don’t keep changing their minds or take the most expedient route (because it’s easy).
Communication is made up of 3 main elements – listening, body language and asking questions. As the saying goes, a good leader will listen and speak in the same proportion as their mouth and ears i.e., listen twice as much as they speak. For most people, listening was not a God-given gift so, start practicing your listening skills today.
Combining self-awareness and communication, another aspect of communication is the old chestnut – "actions speak louder than words." A good leader really understands that people will place way, way, way more emphasis on their actions than what they actually say. Many managers seem to think it’s enough to say the words and that people will accept them. People don’t, they look for the credibility that comes with matching the actions to the words.
Take Time to Reflect:
If you’re going to have a vision of the future, it makes sense that you take some time out of the day-to-day and consider what you’re trying to do. This is not a particularly easy thing to do. Most people are so busy with the every-day that they don’t have time to consider the need to step back, let alone do it.
However, it’s important to schedule in time to reflect. Put it in the diary, go somewhere quiet and start asking yourself questions such as “what am I (we) doing?”, “what am I (we) doing this for?”, “what do I (we) want to be doing?”, “will I (we) achieve that by what I (we) am currently doing?”
Being a leader takes a huge amount of energy and effort, and it can be a lonely place at times, but wouldn’t turning a dream into reality be worth it? Answers on a postcard, or at least your thoughts in the comments section…
Irial O'Farrell is an executive coach, trainer and author. She is fascinated with what makes people and companies sucessful and works with clients to become the best leaders they can be so they can deliver high performance results.
She has written the book Values-Not Just for the Office Wall Plaque: How Personal and Company Values Intersect.