I was recently speaking to a woman who told me she could never be a leader. I asked her why she thought this, and she told me that she is an introvert, and doesn’t enjoy interacting with people at the level she perceives leaders need to do so. Knowing what I did about this person, I followed on with another question about whether she thought she had some leadership qualities? This was a rhetorical question, as she did. Although she didn’t recognize them as such.
The woman I was speaking with works with a leadership team. I saw first-hand how she interacts with the leaders she works with, and I can assure you, she could be a leader if she desired to be one. When I shared with her that I saw her exhibiting leadership qualities, it was as if I was telling her the funniest joke she had ever heard. Her response surprised me, but I also realized that her perception of herself was skewed from the reality of how others perceived her.
My perception of her was that she was highly confident, and was interacting with those she supported at an equal level. She commanded respect, and it was obvious that it was reciprocated. However, her perception of herself bothered me. So, naturally, I took this as an opening to have a conversation with her about what I was seeing.
At first when I mentioned to her how impressed I was with how she interacted with the leadership team she supported, she seemed embarrassed that I made this comment. After another moment of having my words sink-in, she said she couldn’t imagine being one. It was at this point that I revealed to her that she had leadership characteristics that she was not acknowledging, but that were clearly there.
Over the last several decades, I have had the good fortune of being able to work with, and guide leaders, and those that they lead. One of the most fascinating experiences I repeatably have, is how most of the leaders will reveal to me that they often feel like they question their decisions and actions. I will also share with you that they do not ever come across as being unsure of what they are saying or doing. Are they faking their confidence level, and accomplishing this by choosing certain words and how their body language outwardly conveys leadership characteristics? Yes, and no.
Yes, most seasoned leaders have mastered how to “act” like a leader, and the ones who are newer to leadership roles, are doing the best they can to mimic the qualities they perceive other leaders exhibit. The point is that although leaders may appear as if they have figured out exactly how to be a strong leader, most of them are still doing what the medical and legal fields commonly reference, and cite that they are “practicing” their profession.
So, are there ways to learn how to become a better leader? Sure, there are, but the question you should be asking is, are the leaders making the investment in themselves to learn how to be a better leader? Or, if you were to ask a leader what they have done recently to become a better leader, most will find it challenging to respond in a way that you would rate as a satisfactory answer. Although there are exceptions to every circumstance, so not all leaders fall into this category.
The good news is that most leaders are at least aware they should be doing something to strengthen their leadership skills, but they may not prioritize this at the level you might expect them to. Why? Well for one thing, they are extremely time constrained, are responsible for many people they lead, and are continuously trying to strike a balance of meeting the requirements others demand they meet, while also helping those they lead to reach the K.P.I.’s (keep performing indicators), and financial goals they are ultimately responsible for.
If you think you have what would be considered leadership qualities, I want you to consider thinking about what are you doing to personally and professionally develop them? You do not need to be the CEO of a company to be a leader, but you do need to embrace the responsibilities that come with taking on this role. Even if it means you are leading a professional or personal project that others are counting on you to accomplish and do well.
Let’s circle back to thinking about what some of the qualities and characteristics are required to be a strong and effective leader. I’ll let you be the judge of whether as a leader you embody these qualities, have others that contribute to you being a leader, or if the leader you are being led by has any of these attributes.
- You are an exceptionally strong listener, and have the ability to ask questions that will bring out information that will be beneficial to you and those that you lead during your conversations.
- No one would question your integrity when it comes to making the right decisions, and to further quality this statement, the right decisions are often the most difficult ones to make.
- Others will perceive you to be a strong role model, and yet, may not convey this to you, as they might be intimidated to do so, so be aware of this, and work on making yourself more approachable.
- You are someone others can always count on.
- Your ability to strategically consider all of the factors in any scenario, or defer to those who are more strategic than you are is critical to your long-term success.
- You are openminded to hearing, and applying others input before making a final decision.
- You are able to admit when you made a mistake.
- You are comfortable with being yourself, and not trying to resemble another leader whose qualities and characteristics are not like your innate ones.
Being a leader is one of the most challenging roles a person can take on. It can also be one the most rewarding ones, given you are ready to take on all of the responsibilities this role comes with. No one is ever perfectly ready to assume a leadership role, but you will know when you are approaching the time when you should be one. Good luck to you on your leadership journey, and thank you for taking on this role.
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