If we asked 100 people what defines being a leader, 99% would say that it’s about reaching a certain professional level. Leadership is often associated with a title, a management responsibility, the size of a paycheck, and the list goes on and on.
Leadership is a position that many of us aspire to – and a quality that many of us try to gain. And very often, when we start to believe that we are (becoming) a leader, we aspire to be a better leader and an even better leader – creating a never-ending process of growth and development.
This process of growth and development is extremely healthy and an ongoing investment that we should all be making in ourselves. But rather than wait until we feel like we are seen as a leader, or until we get that leadership title, or until we actually feel like we are a leader, let’s reframe our definition of leadership and embrace our opportunity here and now.
First, let’s break the definition of being a leader down to a more granular level.
Everyone is a leader, regardless of title or tenure.
The basic definition of leading is to move something forward. It can be a project, a team of people, an individual person or thing. It’s about momentum, progression and action. It’s about motivation, inspiration and adaptation.
Everyone has the ability to lead – therefore everyone is a leader in their own right.
Waiting until you have the title or the power could be detrimental to your long-term leadership potential. And just because you have the title or the authority doesn’t actually make you a great leader either.
How to be a great leader – now.
Ask those same 100 people what they believe good leadership is and you’ll get 100 different answers. Google the top qualities of leaders and you’ll get results that read “Top 10 Qualities of a Leader”, or “8 Aspects of Great Leadership” or “21 Attributes of Leadership”…so who is to say what great leadership is?
Knowing that leadership is all about moving forward, at the very core of great leadership lies 1 undeniable truth: leadership is influencing others. Good leaders don’t force their vision on others, they don’t demand followers, they don’t control situations and they certainly don’t watch along while it happens. They inspire. They motivate. They listen. They understand. They are supportive, empathetic, open and honest. They are involved and accountable.
Leadership qualities vary from leader to leader but the base root is the ability to influence others in a positive and meaningful way. How does one do that?
Know your stuff. Gain credibility by knowing the ins and outs of your work, project or assignment. Don’t wing it – do the hard work first and others will see you as the expert and credible resource worth following.
Know your audience. When trying to influence someone (or a group of someone’s), you need to know what motivates them, what’s important to them, what they need to be successful. Adjusting your approach based on this demonstrates that you really care and that you are in this right along with them.
Be confident. By being confident in yourself, your vision, your abilities, you will give others confidence in you and will inspire them to want to listen, follow and do what you are asking.
Be authentic. To thine own self be true. The more you embrace your own gifts, skills and talents and use them to inspire others around you, the greater your leadership potential and ability to move forward.
Great leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.
Understand that being a great leader is a process, but one that you are highly capable of. Rather than wait till the “right time”, focus on building your leadership muscles now. Decide what kind of leader you want to be (more on that here) and take the steps to become that leader now.
Being a great leader requires focus and dedication. It’s a process but is well worth it. If you want to talk more about how to build your leadership brand, take advantage of our FREE 30-minute strategy session where we can start to dig into your leadership vision and set the wheels in motion for you.