What it Takes to be a Leader
All world admires a successful person. There is no one who doesn’t want to be a success in his/her career, personal life and just about any chosen field of activity. However few recognize the common ingredients that have helped people who have had spectacular success in their chosen field. Nevertheless these common ingredients can all be packed into one powerful word- leadership.
Being a leader is not to be confused with being the boss. You can have a boss who fails as a leader. Similarly, you might have several rungs above you in the corporate ladder, people you have to report to, people who have the power to decide on your ideas and still be a leader. What is important is that you develop and show leadership qualities within the purview of the power allotted to you. Let us now examine what these qualities are.
Skip the Blame Game
It is an all too common scene at work- something goes wrong and the concerned person tries to pass the buck elsewhere. E.g. “I didn’t send the report because my computer is not working and the maintenance people haven’t repaired it…” This is also the hallmark of the failures of this world. They refuse to take responsibility for their actions and choices.
So here goes the foremost principle of leadership. Take responsibility- both as an individual and at a team level. If someone in your team makes a mistake, it is the collective responsibility of the team to admit it and take steps to rectify it. Being accountable for your actions and choices is another way to describe this behavior.
There are many situations in life and work where we don’t have control over the way things turn out. Unexpected things, unanticipated outcomes happen. Things outside your control go wrong. Leadership here is in the way you respond to these challenging situations. You have a choice over the way you react/ respond to an event. The way you respond determines if the event goes down as a disaster or turns into an opportunity to learn.
The same holds true for pressures at work. Assess the situation to identify your weak areas in handling the situation and take steps to improve it. If you are lacking in a skill, take a course to acquire it. If you are given more work than you can handle in your time, learn to prioritize, delegate when possible and ask for help if necessary. Do not keep quiet or go on cribbing.
Hone Your Interpersonal Skills
A successful leader is someone people admire and like approaching, not someone who invokes fear. Treat people with respect, take appropriate interest in them and be available to talk with. Avoid sarcasm, bullying and other dysfunctional behavior. Make eye contact when you speak with people.
Qualities that denote good interpersonal skills figure at the top of any soft skills list. Along with accountability, they make a powerful combination that fuels success in all walks of life.
Spend some time regularly for introspection. Analyze what motivates you and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Identify areas that could do with some improvement and work on them. Also observe yourself when you are with others. Are you prone to make excuses when things go wrong? Do you react defensively? How respectful and direct are you in dealing with others? What are the words and expressions that you use very often? These can reveal a lot about your prospects of success.
Seek and Listen to Feedback
Sometimes introspection and self analysis may not be sufficient to know how you are perceived by others. Ask for constructive criticism from your seniors and colleagues at work as well as friends and close ones. Avoid the tendency to react defensively if an unfavorable comment comes up. Listen actively, ask questions and then take time to analyze it in your mind. It would help if you can identify similar situations where you showed such behavior.
All said and done, accountability is one word that catches it all. Remember that we have only control over our own choices and reactions. Everyone gets lucky at some point or the other- but sustained success is invariably the result of how we manage our choices and behavior.