Do you believe that there’s a leader concealed inside you wishing to manifest to you a vision, an endeavor, to cause an impact on this world? I believe there is. That leader exhibits certain characteristics that set them apart from everyone else. They vary for each person, but the characteristics that resonate with me are honesty, integrity, transparency, and most importantly empathy. When you think about it, you will notice that the characteristics that you believe makes a leader are the characteristics that you will recognize within yourself.
You may be wondering how I know there’s a leader inside of you. Well, there’s been an old debate that will probably continue in perpetuity between leadership scholars over the emergence of leaders. One school of thought says people are born leaders; and the other reasons that they can learn the art, which I devoutly believe. In fact, the real dilemma holding us back is: Do we genuinely want to be a leader?
Some find out because of adversity in their own lives that they want to be leaders. Others seem to have natural gravitation to leadership; indeed, they are always found to be placed in positions of leadership or are expected to lead. That’s how people realize. But do they know what it means to lead?
Leaders are sense-makers; at least, they ought to be. They define terms, set targets, and establish parameters. They describe the context in which work has to be done. They point the way ahead. Want to be a leader? Then be mindful of where you and the people you lead are now and where you want to go. If you do not know, then how is anyone supposed to follow you?
Before being a leader, you used to be a face in the crowd. But now the crowd is looking at you. Leaders, in short, are watched and studied much more than many of them perhaps realize. This is why that skill of describing or ‘framing’ the situation is so important. Positive thinking plays a crucial role in being a good leader; however, reckless optimism is impulsive. Hence, judicious, measured optimism is the leaders’ best friend.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. Good leaders do not settle for adequate results. They want more, for the team they lead as well as for themselves.
You can’t lead without a purpose. Part of a leader’s job is to let people know what that purpose is. We must breathe to live but breathing is not the purpose of life. A good purpose has three essential qualities: It should be inspiring, authentic, and practical. The purpose isn’t about tapping into some mystical internal drive; rather, it is about creating simple beacons that focus attention and engagement on the shared goal. If you haven’t fathomed a purpose in your life, then it would be a sensible idea to seek and obtain one. It will undoubtedly help you become a better leader.
You might have heard about this pivotal question by Jim Collins to leaders and wannabe leaders: ‘What are you in it for?’ The answer ought to be something bigger than you or your ego. There ought to be a purpose to your leadership: it could be the building of a legacy or the strengthening of an organization. To do all this, you need to believe in what you are accomplishing and, in the work; you are encouraging others to carry out.
I believe leadership is in crisis today. We have never talked more about leadership than we do so today, as we dream and reminisce about great leaders. But we look around the world and observe an array of demagogues besmirching their offices, dragging the idea and practice of leadership down into the gutter. Now it’s your choice to either be one of them or the one who gains the people’s trust and sets it for the betterment of humanity.
So, do you (still) want to be a leader?
By Shaheer Akhtar