If you glance at people’s profiles on Twitter and Linkedin you’ll notice how many people are describing themselves as “Leaders”, or giving themselves even more specific labels such as “Thought Leader” or “Change Leader”. It’s a relatively new trend, and it seems to be becoming more prevalent regardless of industry sector, There are people working in commercial companies, statutory services and the third sector all perceiving themselves as Leaders, but what does it actually mean?
What is interesting is that these new type of Leaders are not necessarily those who have already reached the top of their game, they are by no means all already established as Captains of Industry or the public sector equivalent. Does that mean anyone can become one?
It’s also indicative of a recent shift in working culture, probably strongly influenced by the way that social media has created a democratic playing field for all of us to exchange ideas and find like minded individuals who share our values, passions and goals. People no longer feel they have to wait a couple of decades building a career and scaling the promotional ladder before they can contribute their ideas and creativity. We don’t feel we have to sit around waiting to be asked our opinion by the people who matter anymore, social media has helped us to all acknowledge a new truth – we all matter.
The word “leader” traditionally conjures up images of World Leaders such as Barack Omaba, Winston Churchill or Vladamir Putin.Or even more dramatically, historical bloodthirsty figures who led their troops into battle such as Napoleon, Alexander the Great or Attila the Hun. Until comparatively recently, it was a word which imbued a slight sense of standing proud in a very masculine sort of way, and being revered, obeyed and feared.
Not anymore. Now Leaders are as likely to be women as well as men, and the best ones look for win/win solutions, and lead with warmth, compassion and humility. So yes, anybody can become a leader now, and we can also define the word in whatever way we think is best. However, calling oneself a leader doesn’t really count unless we have people who are willing to follow, because leadership is always a group activity. Leaders are everywhere at the moment, but good leaders are a much harder to find. So what makes one?
A good leader is…….
- Someone who believes in others. Someone who wants to bring out the best in colleagues and associates, someone who will walk beside to listen, to encourage, to empower, to enable and to enthuse. The very best leaders do all they can to help other people shine.
- Someone who has a clear vision of how to do things differently so that the world becomes a better place.
- Someone who is able to communicate their vision and ideas clearly and with passion.
- Someone who is also happy to follow. It gets exhausting to lead all the time, and the best leaders are those who will collaborate with others as equals and align their own ideals with other leaders to gain momentum for change. Someone who understands that together we will always be stronger.
- Someone who understands that not everyone they share their vision with will get it and want to embrace it first time round. They also understand that that’s OK, that conflict is unnecessary and they will have the magnanimity to agree to differ with graciousness while wishing that person well, before stepping sideways to talk to somebody else.
- They understand the importance of kindness and concern. They know that making people feel good about themselves is essential, because leading is all about team-building and encouraging ideas, contributions and passion from everyone. They know that nobody has the monopoly on great ideas, and it’s the great ideas that matter regardless of who came up with them.
- As people they have core personal values of honesty, integrity, humility and authenticity. They also have a well-developed sense of emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal skills.
- They know that this isn’t about themselves, it’s about the vision and making it happen. They are confident without being ego-centric. Their feet stay on the ground and they remain humble enough to always remember the importance of courtesy and consideration towards others.
- They have the stamina, the resilience and the tenacity to stay the course, the flexibility, adaptability and open-mindedness to embrace new information and concepts as well as the diligence and professionalism to inspire confidence in others.
- They are intuitive and imaginative, and are unafraid to follow their instincts, whilst retaining a clear focus on realistic goals.
- They understand that people will only be inspired by people they like, admire and want to work with.
- They will know they are on the right tracks when people start to call them inspirational, although will also know not to let the compliments, accolades and congratulations go to their head, because they know that this was a joint effort – and they never forget to thank the people who believed in them enough to follow them too.
Are you a good leader? Maybe that’s a question for others to answer on your behalf. Listen carefully to what they are already saying and you may find that you are. However, never forget that the best leaders are always happy to be followers too.
And what did I forget? I led by writing the article, you very kindly followed by reading it, but everyone’s input can still be included by commenting below. Thank you.
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