Taking on a leadership role can be exhilarating, empowering or downright terrifying. You don’t have to be a CEO, a manager or a coach to be a leader. Leadership is a way of being that we develop within ourselves through our behaviors.
Are you a leader in your life? Are you unsure of what that even means?
Owning our actions, being seen, speaking up and elevating others are all qualities of effective leaders. Think of the leaders you have come across in your life and the traits you admired most. Maybe it was their strength, levelheadedness, independence or empathy that earned your respect.
There is no one archetype. In some ways, being a leader simply means being the best, most empowered version of ourselves. Let’s examine the root of leadership.
The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.
– John Wooden
Leadership is not about a job title, wealth or power — it is a way of being. Some of history’s most profound leaders shaped revolutions with nothing more than the shirts on their backs. Conversely, heads of countries have ruled from gold-plated palaces with a complete absence of leadership qualities.
The topic of leadership tends to make us look outwards (I’m not in a management position; I don’t have any authority; Nobody listens to me, etc.) instead of inwards. If the late Nelson Mandela were on an island alone, would he still be a leader? Yes. That is a part of who he is, and whether alone in a jail cell or on the podium addressing thousands, his essence does not change.
The point here is that recognition and awards do not define a leader. Actions do, and those stay consistent no matter who is watching.
Be brave, be moral, be kind…define your own ideal leadership traits based on your role models. Examine how they behaved in certain situations and what impressed you.
Model that behavior in your own life. Work toward the best you because that is the person who will be best equipped to give and lead. Hold yourself accountable each day and the respect and trust of others will soon follow.
Leadership is not wielding authority. It’s empowering people.
– Becky Brodin
Building your leadership skills is not a matter of focusing on yourself, it is all about focusing on others. The returns are 10 fold. By dedicating your energy to empowering and elevating those around you, leading suddenly becomes less scary because it is not about you.
Help people become their best selves and simultaneously become yours. Ralph Nader once said, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” No great leader ever got to a position of power by diminishing others. The word for that is autocrat.
The best leaders know how to step up when they are needed, but they also know when to step aside.
Just like a parent’s mission is to work their way out of a job, leaders instill insight and provide opportunities that help those around them grow.
Strengthening and enriching your team produces a greater feeling of accomplishment than showing off. Good leaders know when to nudge individuals out of their comfort zones and when to step in and take responsibility. From this dance, trust arises. Nobody wants to follow an overblown ego, but they will gladly follow a generous and humble teacher.
Next time you flirt with the idea of embracing your role as a leader, remember that it is not about you, it is about the wellbeing of those around you. That reminder should help lighten the load and bring meaning to the fear that comes with stepping up to the challenge.
Measure your leadership qualities by the number of lives you positively impact, instead of the number of followers you have.
Leadership & learning are indispensable to each other.
– John F. Kennedy
Leaderships represents a personal inner journey with outward characteristics. Without growth, the journey is over. This personal transformation relies on a willingness to stumble, to face adversity and to try again…and again.
Most of us have had professional experience with a boss who dismissed input and feedback, shutting down employee engagement and opportunities for collective improvement.
The perception of today’s leader is of a superhuman who has it all figured out. Someone who does not waver, ask questions or have off days. That image has evolved beyond the 90s legal drama stereotypes. In contrary to the image of superhuman perfection, leaders are immensely human and compassionate. They can bend and change.
That which is stiff and brittle is not thriving — a corpse, a dead branch, a dry leaf. Life is synonymous with flexibility, fluidity, adaptability and growth. A good leader knows that there is a whole lot that he or she does not know. Somebody who knows it all certainly does not belong in a leadership position.
Asking for suggestions, taking feedback and facing criticism, have long been misrepresented as signs of weakness. Witness them in action, and it is pure inspiration.
Whatever your plans for yourself, remember that you have much to offer. The gifts we each possess are entirely unique. Every leader adopts a different approach and emphasis, backed by individual experiences and value. No two leaders are the same. Model those whose leadership styles you admire (it is kind of like a shortcut), but eventually find your own path.
Remember, leadership (1) manifests itself differently in everyone, (2) embodies a way of being, not a particular position or status, (3) hinges entirely on a willingness to grow, and (4) is all about empowering others.
Being an expert orator with a larger-than-life presence, 10 successful companies and a 1,000-watt smile may seem like the recipe for success, but developing true leadership skills is a slow process that starts far beneath the surface. Enjoy the journey and the rewards that come with helping those around you blossom into their best selves.
What is your definition of a leader? Share them with us by commenting below!
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Omozua is a Certified Emotional Mastery & Intelligent Leadership Executive Neuro Coach who empowers & prepares clients to take the journey from where they are to where they want to be by bravely accessing their own potential.