At a conference the other day, one of the speakers kindly promoted my book: ‘Developing your Leadership Skills: from the changing world to changing the world’ (2013, Createspace). Accordingly after the speeches, lots of delegates came to ask me questions about leadership. One of the simplest (and possibly the best question) was ‘what 3 things should I do to be a good leader?’
Here’s my response along with further considerations (et alors):
3 Quick Points about Leadership
There are three key things that a leader needs to ‘do’ and develop in order to be a good leader:
1. Know yourself
If you don’t know yourself, you cannot lead. The only thing a leader needs to merit the title of ‘leader’ is followers; and followers will not follow someone who is not authentic or who is unaware of their impact on others…
Knowing yourself is not as easy as it sounds; however there are many tools to help. Start with the ‘Johari’ window and seek feedback from trusted colleagues. Then look into your personality preferences with such tools as MBTI. There are also psychometric tests particularly targeted to leadership such as Hogan which can highlight both your potential (to develop) and your ‘derailers’ to manage.
2. Know the difference between Management and Leadership
With management, authority goes with the desk and people do not follow you, they just execute your instructions because they subscribe to the hierarchy. Management is about planning, organizing and controlling. It is not something that is replaced by leadership, but to be a good leader, you have to know when to manage and when to lead.
Where management is about planning, leadership is about vision: having a long-term perspective that cuts through the all the challenges of today – it may offer a new path and should always give a sense of direction. Instead of organizing, it is about motivating – how do you engage your followers to do the right thing at the right time? Finally, instead of controlling, it is about communicating – how do you keep on getting the leadership message across and keep everyone going in the same direction?
3. Know your Leadership Style
Daniel Goleman’s article on ‘leadership that gets results’ is probably the best introduction to leadership styles. His argument is that people will have preferences for a certain style, but like the golf professional, the leader will reach to their bag to select the appropriate style for the appropriate situation.
Leadership is often associated with ‘authority’ and ‘commanding’ (or being ‘coercive’) and these can indeed be effective leadership styles where appropriate; however consider the ‘democractic’, ‘affiliative’, ‘pacesetting’ or ‘coaching’ styles. If they are not your immediate preferences, at least learn how to apply them when necessary according to context and situation.
It is sometimes arguable that leadership is about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.’ It is all about who you are, how you react and how you engage followers. Without followers, you are not a leader, simple! To be a leader you have to know yourself first and foremost and then learn more. There is always more to learn: one of the key tests used to identify potential leaders is ‘curiosity quotient’ – if you want to keep on learning, the chances are that you will also be able to develop as a leader. So start with these 3 quick points about leadership…