This one is for all of the aspiring leaders out there – official or unofficial.
What makes someone a leader? My definition is simple – it’s helping your team achieve higher degrees of success. A leader is not someone who has been granted a position or job title; they might be the boss, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a leader. Likewise, someone who doesn’t have a position or title can be a better leader than someone with the title. It all actually depends on how well you can really lead others.
I was reminded of this while reading Michael Ray Hopkin’s ‘How to lead with commitment’. Among other things, Michael explores the importance of making a strong commitment to becoming a leader. Without this commitment you won’t be able to achieve anything. The good news – anyone can make this commitment.
I recently spoke to a colleague who shared an experience from a previous job. They were working for a big company – one of Australia’s largest. There was a clear heirachy that stretched all the way to the top. My colleague knew who his boss was, who his boss reported to, and so on, all the way to the top. It was absolutely clear that, by virtue of the structure, his boss was the boss. But it was also very clear that this boss was not the leader.
The boss would arrive late to the team meeting; complain about the results; complain about the team; demand that everybody focus on fixing the problems and then disappear until the next meeting. Where’s the leadership? There is no commitment to the role of leader by this boss.
When a team member had a problem, the boss was nowhere to be found and when he could be located, he lacked the ability to address the issue. Despite his position, it was clear that this person lacked the commitment required to be an effective leader. He failed to look people in the eyes and engage in meaningful interactions. He was not open to listening to new ideas and would never accept advice from his team. He clearly failed to provide adequate direction for his team (other than what his bosses told him), was not planning for the future nor did he actually follow through on his commitments.
Leaders need to be able to effectively engage with their teams, actively listen, accept advice, plan for the future and deliver on what they promise. These traits take time, energy, emotion and commitment. As a leader, you will need to focus on your own behaviours and ensure you are fully committed to role modelling the behaviours you are seeking within the team. Once you are focused and committed, you can then effectively lead your team to success.