Leadership is certainly a hot topic at the moment. What with Sheryl Sandberg's call to 'Lean In' and Barack Obama's leadership under question it certainly is a challenging time to be a leader! But what does leadership truly mean and what is the essence of a good leader? There is a lot of confusing advice out there so we've decided to bust some myths...
The word 'power' is highly emotive and can have negative connotations with regards to leadership. In fact it is leaders who hold authority (knowledge and experience – not power) in their space who ooze presence; which in turn delivers a confident attitude. This is both inspirational and aspirational for those around them. Watching someone who appears comfortable in who they are and what they believe (as opposed to 'looks powerful') gives people a sense they can be believed in.
2. To be a leader is to convey a certain infallibility
It is a fallacy that leaders should be seen to be infallible. Not only does this give a skewed view of what a leader is, it also creates false expectations for a leader's followers. It is in fact humility, not infallibility that is one of the core ingredients of successful leadership. Embracing humility, connecting with those who matter – and not viewing this as weak leadership – builds others’ confidence in us, and is at the heart of strong leadership.
3. Support is for your team, not for you
As leaders we often appear to be expected to just ‘get it’ and get on with it, without prior experience or knowledge. Yet strangely, we often don’t reach out for help. It seems ‘safer’ to keep our head down, to get on with the job. In practice though, when we do articulate our concerns, we get support and it becomes apparent that no one really expected us to step into the role and be able to deliver it hands down first time. And yes reaching out for support takes a huge dollop of humility.
4. You will be judged soley by the tangible results you produce
People typically get rewarded in their careers for delivery of really great things - of products, of projects, of sales. Whatever it is – they get rewarded for an output and the outputs of leadership are often a little less tangible. Strong relationships, clear vision, solid direction – these are not easy to quantify because they’re much more thought based … they are no less worthy or valuable and can be judged just as favourably.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
5. If you lead, they will follow
It is tempting for leaders to believe they can gain more traction and support by steaming ahead with an idea or particular plan without taking the time to bring people with them. In truth you cannot be a leader without followers and people will not truly follow unless you take the time to connect with them. This means looking around at your people, celebrating what others bring, recognising their strengths (which may be different and will often be complementary to our own) and consciously filling your own gaps by applying their brilliance, thus creating an irrefutable collective strength. It is very easy to forget that our most critical, and potentially influential, audience are those we actually lead.
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