Defining leadership is difficult, and defining yourself as a leader is more so. I’ve strived throughout my professional career to inspire and motivate those around me, whether they’re employees, friends or peers. I’ve challenged myself and others to move past long-held business and workstyle beliefs through innovation and technological application.
But one of the hard truths of leadership is that it’s a moving target. It’s a continuous, dynamic learning experience that spans your entire career.
Here are a few facts about leadership I’ve learned over the years that seemed counterintuitive to me at first:
Leadership has nothing to do with management
In the business world, we often equate “leadership” and “management.” We tend to recognize upper-management as the leaders of our organization. But the fact of the matter is that the two concepts have almost nothing to do with each other. Good managers can be terrible leaders, and not every leader possesses the practical skills to make a solid manager.
Leadership can be present at any level of an organization, from the entry-level associate to the CEO. That’s one of the most powerful aspects of leadership: it’s open to everyone. All it takes is a willingness to raise your hand and the capability to inspire others to reach their potential.
The very notion of a leader places someone on their own, separate from the pack, motivating and guiding the other members of a team. But leadership is not a solo endeavor. The essence of leadership is acting through others. It cannot be done or achieved in a vacuum.
To truly succeed as a leader, you need the capacity to empathize and identify with those around you. You have to learn to interact with unique individuals in unique ways in order to connect and collaborate with them effectively.
Leaders must always be learners
I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating: leaders can never stop learning. There’s no magical level of leadership acumen you can attain that allows you to stop working at it. The workplace itself is a dynamic place, now more than ever; changing mindsets and innovative technologies and trends create an ever-evolving work environment. Workplace leaders who don’t commit to evolving alongside that environment will quickly stagnate.
Making a commitment to bettering yourself as a leader is also a commitment to bettering those around you. If you’re passionate about becoming an effective leader, don’t ever let yourself become complacent.
Photo Credit: Kevin Shine