What picture does the word “Leader” or “Leadership” evoke in your mind? Oh yes, you could easily visualize Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Goodluck Jonathan etc. That’s fine, they are leaders.
But leadership is much more than leading a country. That’s why it is often said that “each of us is a leader in his or her own right” as we can truly choose to be a leader in what we do.
If that is the case, maybe we should first have a common understanding of what leadership is all about. Let’s do this by asking the question: Who is a leader?
Stephen Covey of blessed memory captured it succinctly. He said, “A leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells: ‘Wrong jungle!’” In other words, a leader guides his followers.
A Leader leads. He is that man or woman who guides and directs others.
So, if you find yourself in any position of being in front and people follow; you are a leader.
If you give direction and set examples for people; you are a leader.
Apart from leaders of countries across the world, many other people fit perfectly into the description of leadership so far given. Think about religious leaders. Think about sports leaders. How about business leaders? And labour union leaders too?
But could that be all?
Not at all. You are yet to name yourself.
Yes, yourself. You are also a leader.
Now you want to argue, right? You don’t lead anyone? Well, let’s take a look at your profile.
Do you have subordinates at work? Do you have younger siblings? Do you have a wife? Do you have kids? Do you have friends? Do you occupy a certain position in your church, association, or club? Do you hold any position in school? Do you have a boyfriend? OK, do you have a girlfriend? Do you have friends on Facebook? Do you post on your Facebook Wall? Do you tweet? Do you chat on BB?
We can go on and on, but let’s stop with those few examples.
If you said “yes” to any of those questions; then, you must begin to see yourself as a leader. Whatever you do in each of those positions mentioned could influence others – subordinates, children, siblings, spouse, club members, friends etc.
We can actually extend leadership further as, so far, we have only looked at situations where someone acts as the head and others follow. That’s the popular “Top Down Leadership” type.
But leadership is more than that.
There is “Bottom Up Leadership” where you can actually lead your boss. Yes, that’s true. Who says you cannot “manage your boss”? Who says you cannot show a new boss the right path to follow? Who says you cannot make the boss depend so much on you? That’s “Bottom Up” leadership type.
The third type of leadership is known as “Lateral Leadership” in which you lead your peers. Yes, you’re all equal; but you can display a number of leadership qualities that will show your mates that you’re different from the pack. You become a good influence to them and they all rely on you despite your equality. This could start with how you relate with your “friends” on Facebook and other social networks – your posts, pictures, comments etc.
While the three types of leadership we’ve examined have to do with leading other people, the fourth one is about you and it is called “Self Leadership.” For you to fit into any of the other three leadership types so far mentioned, you must first fulfill this one. It is about how you discipline yourself; how you carry yourself; how you reason; how you talk; and, of course, how you relate. In a nutshell, self leadership is all about self discipline.
What Leaders Do
Now that we are of the same mind on what leadership entails, we should quickly look at what great leaders actually do. When you understand what leaders do, it should become easier for you to emulate them and, within a short period, you too should become one of them, and start to act like them.
To do justice to this, we shall be borrowing a page from Jack Welch’s book, Winning. In fact, this is a great book for every student of leadership to read and thoroughly digest.
Winning outlines eight key things that great leaders do and here they are:
- Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.
- Leaders make sure people not only see the vision; they live and breathe it.
- Leaders get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
- Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.
- Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.
- Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.
- Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting example.
- Leaders celebrate.
Hmmm, please go through that list again and benchmark it against your leaders. How do they fit?
The sad news is that true leaders are scarce. The fact that someone occupies a position of authority does not mean that he is a great leader. Many actually get into positions of authority by various means.
You can make the decision to be great. You can be what Robin Sharma calls ‘Leader Without A Title.’
As he says:
“…by infusing leadership into everything you do and each thing you touch, you can live remarkably. You truly can realize your original genius. You really can be one of the great ones.”