How to become a better leader?
I’ve always thought that being a leader means doing the least. The living-stereotype in my mind highlighted a leader giving orders and staying on a chair the whole day. I was wrong. The leaders I met for the past few years did far more than the people they lead. They set the examples, they inspire and we are naturally attracted to their character. I realized that some leaders made huge sacrifices to keep their integrity.
“Leadership is behavioral, not positional. The capacity to integrate, motivate, and mobilize others to bring a common aspiration to life is what leadership is all about, not holding positions of formal authority” Nelson Mandela
As I am writing this, I have a few leaders in mind. We always remember the leaders who inspired us the most. They make us feel good about ourselves. I feel that I always want to stay around them, as if we want to be their followers forever.
So how to become a better leader? My goal now is to emulate these leaders. As an aspiring leader, I would like to share sights and findings on how to be a leader.
We have to value teamwork
I used to think that perfectionism was good. I’ve always wanted to do everything by myself. I want to give my best on every task and if I feel that the person underperforms, I prefer to do it on my own. What a terrible mistake. I failed to see my huge ego in leading others. I soon realized that we can’t do everything, every time, on our own. Delegating was a big challenge. I overlooked their potential to be leaders too and rather wanted them to stay followers. That was probably my biggest lesson at the beginning. Nobody likes to feel underestimated and belittled. Everyone wants to contribute and feel they are part of those who decided.
It is always better to work with the right team, identify and maximize their strengths. I still try to do my best and believe that we have to work harder than anyone else. Now I know that we have to work as a team. We are more productive when everyone contributes. We feel good when we are surrounded by other smart, hard working people.
It’s not what you say but who you are
Some leaders talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. We never trust this category of people. Human beings always ping at each other and even more in a leader-follower dynamic. “Why would I follow him if I don’t even trust him, if he doesn’t even keep his word?” I soon realized the importance of integrity. Great leaders keep their words; they talk the talk and walk the walk. As a leader, I realized that people follow for a few reasons and one of them is if you are trustworthy. We earn our trustworthiness by being real and genuine. Authenticity wins over duplicity. It’s where we need to really listen to people and provide them what they need. It is also when we have to keep our word and produce genuine mutuality. A leader must be a role model in their family and their community.
How to become a better leader: understand that people work better when they are happy
Leaders have high-awareness on how they should interact with others and how to solve conflicts. We’ve always seen a boss who publicly criticized and made personal attacks to an employee. Such a situation leaves the employee confused, bitter and unmotivated. Yet, we work better when we feel good about ourselves. We’ve all stonewalled someone who underestimated us, I did. A leader brings a team to work together and achieve common goals. But what if his teammates are demotivated?
This is why leaders should develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence by definition is our ability to understand our emotions and manage them. Great leaders proactively make their surroundings feel better about themselves. Self-regulating one’s emotion is crucial especially in a challenging situation where bad leaders wouldn’t hesitate to undermine their employee’s confidence. The number one rule is to praise in public and correct in private.
They are good communicators and excel at public speaking
Good communication skills involve interpersonal communication and public speaking. Great leaders project great confidence are good storytellers and love inspiring us. A good leader practices active listening and tries to understand his follower’s needs.
So like any other natural processes and small steps, it can take time. It’s all about practice, feedback and course-correction.