If we focus more precisely on what makes one a leader, we can develop a lot more people into effective leaders
Leadership has taken on a lot of baggage over the years. I believe people have piled on so many things it’s supposed to mean that we may have lost sight about what leadership really is and isn’t. And that can make it difficult when we want to develop people into better leaders.
What makes this even more confusing is that we do need to learn some of the things that are not about leadership. These skills and capacities can make us more effective as both a leader and manager. They just can’t make us into a leader.
So most of what is taught about leadership is a good thing. It’s just that when we teach things that do not directly deal with how we influence people to enthusiastically join with us, we make it more difficult and confusing to focus on what will make us more effective as a leader.
I’m not alone in thinking this way but some of my perspective is still not widely known. There are also many who might disagree with a few of these myths. We use the terms leader and leadership so often in so many ways that it has lost some of its meaning and value. I believe we need to reign in our use of these terms and be more precise about when we use them. That will go a long way to help develop a lot more people into effective leaders.
1. Leadership is not about your title, position, power or authority.
You don’t need a title to be a leader and having a title doesn’t make you a leader. Some of the best leaders I’ve known were hourly workers who stood up and lead when the situation called for it. No one appointed them. There are individuals with important titles who try to influence people by virtue of their power and authority. They are not leaders.
2. Leadership is not a skill.
It’s not a group of techniques you can apply when you need to get people to do things. Skills will make you a more effective leader but you have to be a leader first before you can use them.
Skills don’t make the leader. The leader makes the skills.
3. Leadership isn’t about having a bigger than life personality.
Studies repeatedly show that while bigger than life people can appear to be effective in the beginning, they can’t keep it going for the long term. The most effective leaders are humble. They put the spotlight on others instead of themselves. Humility is a core character trait of trusted leaders. Some of the best leaders in business are people no one has ever heard of.
4. Leadership is not about having big, bold, innovative ideas.
Of course executives and managers need to create ideas and strategies that give their people and the organization a direction to pursue. It’s just that creative thinking and strategy formation is not leadership, it’s a part of the task, roles and responsibilities of management. Too often, we see people confusing this by acknowledging someone as a leader because of their great ideas. What they really are acknowledging is their ability to influence other people to join with them and turn those ideas into a reality.
When was the last time you saw someone recognized as a leader for coming up with brilliant ideas that were never implemented? When we separate the critical role of idea creation from leadership, we can then effectively develop both capacities. When we muddy the works by combining them, it diffuses our ability to help people focus on what will actually make them a better leader.
5. Leadership and management are not the same thing.
Are you a manager who leads or a leader who manages?
Management is about carrying out the task, roles and responsibilities of a position. Yes, these are very important. Yet, many of the things managers and executives are involved with have nothing to do with leadership. Management is about things you do as a part of your position. It comprises a good part of your job description.
Leadership is about who you are…your character. It’s not something you do. It’s the way you are as a person. It’s what causes people to trust you. You can’t turn it off and on like a light switch. Everywhere you go at work, in the community, while shopping and at home you are a leader. You are a leader twenty four hours a day because it’s who you are.
Schedule a phone conversation with Don Shapiro, President of First Concepts Consultants, to answer your questions and explore how this discussion could help your organization.