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Effective Leadership Skills - What makes a Leader?
Yeah right, I know the Feeling....
If reading the title of this hub made you sigh, grimace or smile wearily you are in the right place. There are countless Leadership theories, books, courses, seminars and workshops with their own brand of leadership wisdom promising to make the ordinary extraordinary.
If you are not in a position of power or have the possibility of rising to a position of power you may not ever consider looking at Leadership skills. You may think leaders are only born rather than made. You may think all these quacks peddling their leadership wares are snake oil salesmen/women.
Believe me, I was the same. Every time I attended a seminar due to my work commitments, the air was so thick with cliché and jargon that I was choking on ennui. Until one day, I came across a model that helped me realise everyone can develop leadership potential and skills even if they have no intention to lead a group or an organisation.
I now have the privilege to lead a successful Educator team, a primary care partnership that looks after over 5000 patients and to be involved in executive decision making at a level that I would've never considered possible based on my previous lack of confidence in myself.
If anyone had told me some years ago that I would be leading in any shape or form, I would have been the first one to laugh them off the room. Having been brought up in relatively humble circumstances,while I did dream - I didn't dare to dream that far!
Few years ago I was granted an audience with our then UK prime Minister Tony Blair, at No:10 Downing Street for exhibiting qualities of leadership in healthcare and education. It was one of my and my family's proudest days. I know this sounds rather self indulgent to give out this information, but I am merely illustrating the point that I really didn't consider myself a born leader and I surprised myself.
Or is it that I had some innate skills in connection and communication, courage and compassion that are fundamental to a leadership journey?
Are leaders born or made or a bit of both?
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
- John Quincy Adams
I realised all along I was confusing potential with positions. There is nothing wrong in developing a Leadership potential even if we don't contemplate to be in a Leadership position.
It makes us grow in experience and expertise, makes us better at self and people management at work or better still, at home...
Confusing Position with Potential....
When I grew up, Where I grew up I had no desire to be a leader. I thought that was a position for the rich and influential, the powerful and the political. I was studious but quiet and introverted. I was happy to be a team player at school but never a leader.
I realized all along I was confusing potential with position. I realized soon that there is nothing wrong in developing a leadership potential as it makes us grow in experience and expertise, makes us better at self and people management at work or better still, at home.
These skills sets can help in every day interactions and decision making, they can help us achieve success and peace in our life without ever needing to take on the mantle of leadership. Of course, should you enjoy developing these skills and do choose to step up and lead, the world will be your apple, too.
Here I am, sounding like the very snake oil salesman I was accusing others of being!
Well hear me out; it may be fifteen minutes of your life well spent. If nothing here sparks a productive thought, at least it was free to peruse! This hub is based on a talk I gave to bunch of professionals last year...
Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.
- Edwin H. Friedman
The problem with innate skills and traits that we are born with or have developed is that we need to personally identify them first.
We need to label, foster, reflect, review, enhance, edit, combine and contextualise these skills to be able to put them to good use...
Who or What is a Leader?
Authentic leaders are ordinary people able to draw on extraordinary talents. They are prepared to bring all of themselves to work, to stand up for what is important and to adapt appropriately to meet new situations.
And Leadership itself can be described as
- An act that causes others to act or respond in a shared direction
- An Art of influencing people by persuasion and example
- A force that motivates and co-ordinates the organisation/team/family in the accomplishing of its objectives
When we put it that way we begin to realize there are lot more leaders around than we give people credit for...
Lets also remember that leading is not the same as managing. Leaders can be managers but not all managers are leaders.
My personal view is that while not all of us want to lead, learning leadership skills makes us more effective followers too.
It also helps us to realise hidden potential, gives us the confidence to grow some of those and even dare to step out of the comfort zone to overcome personal uncertainties when an opportunity presents itself.
Born or Made?
Most people view leaders as being ‘born’ rather than ‘trained’ and view leadership as an innate quality that is difficult to replicate or assume. This is perhaps true in some great leaders where a combination breeding, family up bringing and the possession of some fundamental characteristics that is ripe for seeking out a leadership role. It is perhaps also helpful to have the right connections at the right age that lead them to a path of glory.
But this is not the only truth.
It is now clear that Leadership traits can also be learnt, adapted and put to good use. Almost all of us have natural archetypal skills & attributes that reflect a facet of leadership but may not realise it and reflect on these.
The problem with innate skills and traits that we are born with or have developed is that we need to personally identify them first. We need to label, foster, reflect, review, enhance, edit, combine and contextualise these skills to be able to put them to good use.
My personal view that while not all of us want to lead, learning leadership skills makes us more effective followers too. It also helps us to realise hidden potential, may give us the confidence to grow some of these and even dare to step out of the comfort zone and overcome personal uncertainties when an opportunity presents itself.
Lets reflect on what these potential qualities can be....
Which of these skills/traits do you think is most important to have as a leader?
Reflect and Respond....
Have a think of those traits/skills, make a list of which of these you possess strongly and which areas you think you may need further development.
In the next chapter we will seek out some theories of leadership and how we can develop those areas we may find ourselves not so strong on...
Thank you for listening!
© Mohan Kumar 2012
Join me in Chapter #2
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Thank you and see you soon!
I hope you enjoyed this discussion on leadership skills.
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I appreciate your attention and do come back for the next chapter.
Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2012