Leaders are born and not made. Would you agree with that statement? To some extent some natural leadership talent is of course an advantage; more important perhaps is a passion for the art of leadership and a desire to constantly improve through further skill development.
Many people take on leadership roles because they like the prestige, or see leadership as career progression and the only development path worth taking.
The first leadership tip is don't go into it for those reasons alone. Let's face it, there is so much diversity in today's career opportunities that if status and money are your goals there are plenty of ways of achieving these without having to lead teams of people. As the name implies leadership involves taking other people with you. It should never be viewed as a profession like accountancy, law or engineering and must be studied. When did you last read a book on leadership? If your answer was never, or a year or so ago, it might be time to review your commitment to your profession.
You should enjoy the challenges of working with and generating productivity out of people. Can you accommodate lots of different personal styles? If you are going to lead anything more than one or two people this becomes unavoidable.
Every thing you do or say as a leader is amplified in significance beyond all reason. If you arrive in your department or business noticeably tense your staff will pick up on this in a microsecond and assign all sorts of reasons for this behaviour. There are documented examples of leaders whose tension and impatient behaviour have been interpreted as the impending closure of the business.
The leader never stops communicating even when he or she isn't intending to. There frankly is no point being balanced, measured and motivational when you think the focus is on you at meetings or "bringing it on" like a second rate politician. You need to be consistent for people to buy into you. Oh and by the way, consistently bad tempered is not an option. You are in the spotlight all of the time, even off duty.
You should always have a strategy! This is a key domain of leadership. If you don't know where the business is going then how can you expect everyone else to? Try to make the strategy simple, relevant, achievable and easy to understand. Above all it should be summarised into a few simple, headline statements and then communicated again and again and again...and just when you think everyone has got it...think again!
Make yours a fun place to be in. A certain amount of stress can be useful. The kind of stress and pressure that comes about when a motivated team of people are striving to get the job completed can be quite liberating. The kind of stress that comes about through exhaustion, insecurity, working in a disharmonious environment and frankly being too serious can be highly unproductive. Seek opportunities for some lightheartedness and fun and try to convey a sense of certainty. People don't like bad news or worry.
Finally, let your people blossom. This might sound very fluffy but it's one of the great leadership secrets and if you take one thing away from this page today let that be it. If you seek and take all of the glory, then hopefully you are prepared to take all of the pressure and the blame when things go wrong (as they certainly will at some point). Indeed, the proverbial buck might well stop with you but as another great saying reminds us...leaders are about as good as their worst team member. If this is correct you might want to think about developing the skill set of your staff and recognising the contributions made by them.
Leadership styles - Read about the different leadership styles
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The versatile leadership style - Read our the versatile leadership style
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