Why do we follow leaders?

I’m not known for talking about politics, and in fact I don’t talk about them for obvious reasons. However, similar to business and sports team leaders, the people in these positions all play an important role in our society. Although their respective assents to their leadership roles are generally remarkably, and curiously different. 

Take for example just about any CEO or leader of a sports team organization. Or, a head sports team coach. If you were to ask them where they went to leadership school, most would look at you oddly. Why? Because there are limited ways for leaders to obtain their skills from an educational perspective. Skills that are truly meaningful.

In other words, leaders learn how to lead from actual experience of leading others. Not by simply reading about how to lead others. I’m not disparaging the wonderful leadership books out there, I’m just stating that I have yet to come across a leader who said they learned everything they needed to become an amazing leader via reading about the topic.

Similar to a trade role (e.g., plumber, electrician, welder), leaders gain the majority of their skills by practicing and applying them in a physical way. Although trade persons are highly skilled, they do not have to master the soft skills that effective leaders need to gain. Unless of course they are the owner of the company. Then I would place those individuals in the same category as business and sports team leaders.

The most impactful skills that leaders need to acquire and master are ones which are more difficult to measure. I’m referring to the skills of communication, influence and emotional intelligence (e.g., EQ). Granted I want to stress that the EQ skill isn’t something one can learn, as this is one of the skills in the innate category. You are either fortunate to have lots of it, or not enough for your or others liking. Having common sense is also one of the beneficial skills the top leaders possess. However, it’s one of the other skills you either have, or you don’t.

Of course, all leaders start out as followers. The interesting factor to consider is at what point is the cross over to leadership made? Depending on the type of leadership role, it could in fact take years before someone steps into that role. However, we have all seen instances where an individual is placed into a leadership role they are ill prepared to take on. Everyone suffers when this occurs. With a few exceptions.

One of the exceptions is that the newly minted leader is supported by others to buffer their learning curve. The supporters will play the role of advising the majority of the new leaders decisions, until they reach a point when they can make more of the decisions on their own. However, without this arrangement in place as an exception, the new under prepared leader will experience a steep and often painful learning curve themselves, and for those they lead. I guarantee you have seen this. Perhaps you have even had the misfortune of being led by this individual? The good news is that most of these ill prepared leaders will be filtered out, and replaced by an actual experienced leader. Although not always.

At what point do people know they are ready to lead and make the crossover into leadership? Below are some ways you will know when the time is right for you to make this leap.

  • Gaining experience takes time. Most leaders will need a minimum of a decade worth of experience to have had enough opportunities to learn, and to have made enough mistakes along the way to be effective when they step into their role. With this said, having 15-20 years of experience is even better.
  • You have had the opportunity to learn about multiple facets of the business, or acquire deep knowledge about the sports team you are leading. Additionally, you have had a minimum number of roles (e.g., 2-4) to provide you with insight only gained from having exposure to critical functions which impact the company, or sports team you will be leading.
  • You are at a point where you are able to mentor others.
  • People you respect and who are in leadership roles begin seeking you out for advice or your opinion on how to handle different situations.
  • You are able to see the big picture, and can effectively communicate strategically as well as persuasively to your peers and leadership members above your current role. 
  • You have made enough calculated mistakes and recovered from them without tarnishing your reputation.
  • Others trust your judgement and are comfortable with letting you make critical decisions, as you have solid track record for demonstrating this.
  • Not everyone who can step into a leadership role wants to do so. In fact, many shy away from the enormous responsibilities that go along with being the leader. It’s not a role for the faint of heart, or those who have difficulty with making, sticking to and applying decisions to be carried out effectively.

Moving into a leadership role is a privilege, and not one to be casually entered into.  In fact, I can tell you that you will intuitively know when you are ready to take on becoming the leader. If you can’t trust your gut instinct with this decision, then it’s not likely your time to step out of the follower role yet. 

Tags: #Business #Success #Leadership #Teams #Sportsteams #Headcoaches #Sportscoaches #Coaches #Headsportscoach #HeadSportscoaches #Strategy #Management #BusinessManagement

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