You Are Not Born A Leader

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It is those people without a title, that often make the difference.  As I write this, I am in a hotel observing a very engaged valet tote bags with kindness.   The kindness he displays influences my day.  If he had responded with brevity or curtness, then I would be tempted to respond with an equal amount of rudeness.   He influences hundreds of people each day, one interaction at a time.

A short definition of leadership is influence.  We all influence people,  thus we can all lead.   There are key competencies that followers look for in leaders.   In this context, we will assume that all leaders drive business results.

Vision:  It is hard to imagine a leader without a vision.  Vision describes a location in the future or a preferred reality.  Without a vision, the direction is scattered.   Great leaders encourage a shared vision by reminding the team over and over again.

Where are you at today as a business or organization? & Where are you going?

Decisiveness:  It is not about being perfect or not making a mistake.  Employees want you to be decisive.  Comments like – “Let’s discuss this decision at the next meeting.” or “I need more information” could be warning signs that your cautious approach is hurting you vs. helping you.  A leader is not neutral.  Take a stand.  Somewhere in between “TOO NICE” and “TOO RESULTS ORIENTED” lies the magic.  You need to be able to build trust and drive relationships.

According to the research found in the book titled “The CEO Next Door” – effective leaders include all employees to give them a voice but yet not all employees are allowed a vote.  It is inclusive with a decisive approach.

Differentiated:   I recently, returned from a trip to London.  I visited the Cabinet War Rooms.  This is where Winston Churchill helped lead the war effort.  Churchill was one of the most feisty, impulsive and temper-filled leaders.  In the Cabinet War Rooms underground in London, visitors can see the conference room where Winston sat and met with officials regarding WWII.  To handle his anxiety, Mr. Churchill carved grooves into the arm-chair.   I believe that this was his way of managing his anxiety and anger regarding the war effort.  His followers, I am sure appreciated this self-management tactic as the bombs were falling on London.  Great leaders take their emotion down, when others take it up.

Trust:  There are no short-cuts to building relational capital with your team.  It takes time.  This goes beyond reading reports and attending meetings.  Employees want to be known by their boss.  Leaders take the initiative in understanding their team’s strengths, interests, challenges and career aspirations.   As you invest time, trust improves.  As you neglect your team, trust begins to falter.  Email and text are tools to help communicate – they are not the only ways to build trust.

Anyone can be a leader.  Leaders are made through casting vision, decisiveness, emotional centeredness and building trust.  If you say to yourself, “I do not have what it takes.” or “I am just not a leader” I would encourage you to consider how you influence those around you by building skill in the four areas above.