One of the classic discussion points on leadership is whether leaders are born or made, in other words, is leadership something that can be learned or taught.
Over the past 20 years of my working life I have been actively involved in the business world as a leader. For the first 10 I was bought in as a high value consultant to lead stressed and underperforming businesses out of trouble, and over the last ten years I have run my own leadership and culture consultancy, Stuart Hayes Leadership.
These professional positions have given me a 360% view of leadership and I can categorically give hope to anyone aspiring to be a better leader, either in business or in their own life, by sharing that I have found leadership is a skill that anyone can develop, providing they are inspired to do so.
There are many kinds of leadership, and not all great leaders are people who sell a vision from the pulpit. So, if you are interested in becoming a better leader, either in your own life, in your own family, or in a business you run or contribute to, here are three great insights into leadership that might inspire you to expand your leadership capacity.
Realise Leadership Is Defined in Moments
Leadership is a choice that occurs at a moment, at a time, in the same way that failing to be a leader is a choice that occurs at a moment, at a time.
This is the nature of the leadership journey and its why leadership is not a destination. It’s a doing thing, a being thing that you are either capable or incapable of rising to when the moment arises.
There is no doubt that making this choice is challenging. This is evidenced time and again in the media with examples of people holding leadership “positions” who are not rising up and being leaders. As the very public recent fall from grace of the disgraced and suspended captain and vice-captain of the Australian cricket team illustrates, holding a leadership position does not mean you are a leader at all: it simply means you hold a senior position.
Choosing to be a leader one moment at a time is one of the hardest aspects of leadership – and at times it can seem monumental. Having said this, the fact that leadership occurs at one moment at a time, means that AT ANY MOMENT YOU CAN CHANGE AND BECOME A LEADER. The journey of 1,000 miles always begins with a single step and in this regard the past is irrelevant!
It also means you don’t have to wait – you are always capable of choosing to be a leader right now. Then choosing again right now…. and right now, and so on. The point of leadership training is to assist you to make this enduring stream of choices. To live in a leadership paradigm. Fundamentally, this is why I regard that whether or not you CAN be a leader misses the point – it’s about whether you ARE a leader when the choice is there to be made.
Realise Anyone Can Be A Leader
It is often said that leadership is a learned skill – but how is that the case!?! Are not the skills of leadership diverse? Surely, they can’t all be learned?
I agree that the skills of leadership are diverse – I also know they can be learned… albeit that as we are all blessed with different gifts and personalities, some things may be harder to accumulate for some people.
In my experience, it is not so much whether someone CAN learn to be a leader… it is all about whether they really WANT to learn to be a leader.
In this respect leadership is a matter of character, maturity and choice. We all have the capacity to examine ourselves and our lives and the contributions we are making to our families, community and business and we can all choose to be leaders in the spheres of life that matter to us.
You can be a leader, you can make a difference, in any field, you just need to be ready to, and chose to do so!
Realise that Leaders Ask Questions
Great leaders are generally not mystical geniuses with all the answers. Often, great leaders are the people that take the time to look at what is happening around them and ask the right questions.
Here are a few reasons why asking questions is part of the DNA of leadership
1. By asking the right questions leaders can control energy in a situation. This is particularly important when you are in sales mode, or when you are a parent mentoring your children.
2. By asking the right questions leaders can isolate a person within a problem (to help them realise that they actually do have a problem and realise that they do need help). Again, this is important in business, families and community.
3. By asking the right questions leaders can ensure that any problem articulated IS the real problem. You can’t change your circumstances unless you accurately diagnose the issues and problems that need to be worked on. Working on the wrong thing changes nothing!
4. Asking the right questions at the right time can help you, or your team to realise that they need to act (in business and in life, inertia is generally not a good option).
5. By asking questions leaders can grow their own credibility and facilitate the input of others and avoid the usually unsuccessful trait of trying to be seen as the person with all the answers. Know it all’s rarely make good leaders.
6. It’s also worth remembering that in life, you don’t get much unless you ask!! And that goes both ways, there’s asking others for what you need, but if you don’t ask yourself questions, you tend to just drift along with the prevailing momentum. It’s worth asking yourself something don’t you think! What kind of a leader are you in your business, family and community, and could you improve your leadership by asking better questions?
At a Micro level, Leadership is about creating a ‘Personal Best’ Culture
Sometimes in life we are reminded of some of its simple truths in beautiful and unexpected ways. Today I was blessed with one such moment and the topic upon which it focused was the achievement of a “Personal Best”.
The achievement of personal best is central to leadership – setting a vision, aligning team members individually and collectively towards this vision, and then encouraging everyone to exceed their own personal best.
In many respects, leadership is all about this… and achieving an “aligned personal best” for everyone involved in your team, family, community or your business, is a very real and worthwhile goal.