Leadership conjures different images to different people. Not all of them are attractive, so not everyone wants to be associated with the notion of being a leader. It’s really not surprising, given the number of unsavoury “leaders” in the political or business spheres that we hear about on the news.
Leadership implies doing good as well as producing results
As a refreshing alternative, I’m inviting you to look at the term “leadership” as it is used in studies on organizational leadership by both academics and practitioners. There is no single agreed-upon definition of leadership, although there is a general shared sense of leadership being benevolent, inspiring and a skill set that can be learned by everyone.
Let’s start with a few quotes by well-known authors:
“The fundamental task of leaders, we argue, is to prime good feelings in those they lead. That occurs when a leader creates resonance – a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people. At it’s root, then, the primal job of leadership is emotional” …..Daniel Goleman in The New Leaders.
“Transformational leaders motivate others to do more than they originally intended and often even more than they thought possible.”Bernard Bass and Ronald Riggio in Transformational Leadership.
“Leadership is a process of social influence which maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of a greater good.”Travis Bradberry in What Really Makes a Good Leader?
“Research indicates that the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring. The best leaders demonstrate more affection toward others and want others to be more open with them. They are more positive and passionate, more loving and compassionate, and more grateful and encouraging than their lower performing counterparts.”James M. Kouzes, in The Truth about Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need to Know
So you see, when talking about leadership there seems to be more than a hint at benevolence and at doing good. Rather than being a matter of titles, power and command, leadership is about creating value, drawing the best out of others, being an inspiration, working for the good of a wider community. Does that sound more attractive? Might bringing the best out of others be something you want to identify with? Or perhaps it’s being connected to a higher purpose?
Everyone has leadership skills
Let’s take it a step further. Let’s argue that leadership does not belong exclusively to the higher ranks. In fact, people in high positions may be appointed as leaders in an institution and have scarce leadership skills. Here are a couple of unequivocal quotes on this aspect of leadership:
“Leadership has nothing to do with seniority or one’s position in the hierarchy of a company. Too many talk about a company’s leadership referring to the senior most executives in the organization. They are just that, senior executives. Leadership doesn’t automatically happen when you reach a certain pay grade. Hopefully you find it there, but there are no guarantees.”Travis Bradberry in What Really Makes a Good Leader?
“What we have discovered and rediscovered, is that leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary people use when the bring forth the best from themselves and others. When the leader in everyone is liberated, extraordinary things happen.”James Kousez and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge
Leadership is thus something that everyone exhibits at some point or other in their lives, at work or in the private sphere. Do you recognize some episode in your life as a leadership moment? Perhaps that time when you had to organize a family event, getting everyone’s agreement, finding volunteers, smoothing out potential conflicts? Or when you led your neighborhood sports club to achieve something big for them? Or when you pushed yourself beyond your limits, exercising some strong self-leadership, to get something difficult done? Does any of this sound familiar? I bet you can remember at least one time in your life where you exhibited leadership skills. Would that inspire you to develop them more?
Grow the leadership skills you already have
To summarize, the two key points that I’m making here today are:
- Leadership implies being ethical and doing good.
- Leadership is a set of behaviours that everyone has and can develop.
Most people can identify with these two concepts. They are reachable and reflect the aspirations of a majority of humans, who mostly want to do good and want to use their compentencies with purpose.
If you decide to develop your leadership skills further it will mean learning how to:
a) lead yourself, set meaningful goals and achieve them, adopt positive mindsets that make you a creative and dynamic problem-solver, manage your emotions to become empathic and resilient, develop self-confidence and presence, learn how to set boundaries.
b) lead others, develop and empower the people around you whether they’re family, friends or colleagues; communicate clearly and honestly, learn how to coach to enable others to demonstrate their potential, be empathic, generous and compassionate, say no when necessary, be strong and stand up for your principles, be an inspiring role model, produce outstanding results together with others.
Good leadership is very important for organizational life but perhaps more importantly, enhancing your leadership skills is good for you!
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Photo credit: Kylie Haulk
©2019 Saba Imru-Mathieu, Founding Partner, Leaders Today