Leadership is a CHOICE, not a title.
My first GURU in my corporate life was not my manager.
In fact, he was not even my superior in any sense.
He was just a developer like me starting out, trying to establish a foothold in the dicey, turbulent world of the software industry.
But he was very different.
He was a leader in the true sense; a perfect example of a born leader.
And he was the GO-TO person for the entire team; a problem killer for all levels of hierarchies, from developers to program managers. He was valued, listened to and respected by everybody. He was a leader in action always, constantly influencing and working for the greater good of the team.
And all this he was doing without even having a FORMAL leadership role.
What was the “secret sauce” that made him tick?
Which traits made him so wildly successful?
let us further explore the traits of such “informal” leaders who successfully lead their teams to glory.
Lead by Knowledge
Christopher Pike nailed it when he said.
“A true teacher would never tell you what to do. But he would give you the knowledge with which you could decide what would be best for you to do.”
They are the undisputed knowledge gurus. They conquer people’s hearts by sheer technical expertise and a great attitude to teach and mentor. They share their knowledge with anybody and everybody and are highly respected and regarded in multiple circles.
They inadvertently directly or indirectly find themselves associated with multiple strategic assignments.
Lead by Innovation
Steve Jobs always held innovation in highest esteem when he said.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
They are the ideators and “out-of-the-box” thinkers. People approach them when they require advice in seeking a new direction and a different perspective.
They come up with ideas and innovations which not only become the talk of the organization but also act as huge disrupters within the industry. They are generally introvert leaders but have a huge fan following in spite of that, across the organization.
Lead by Analyzing
Analyzing is nothing but doing “reality check”; showing the mirror without flinching and Max dePree gets it right when he says the following:
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
They are the “Devil’s” advocates and excel in that role. People approach them when they need their solutions to be dissected minutely to find flaws, issues, and loopholes.
They not only guide the team in identifying and plugging in the gaps but also help them in visualizing their own solutions from a different angle. Their “fault-finding” attitude does not really make them the darling of the masses but in spite of that, everybody wants a “seal of approval” from them to go ahead.
Lead by Conflict Resolution
Hilda Solis brings out the most important quality of any leader when she says.
“My role was to bring about fairness in the workplace. All I did was implement the laws that were currently on the books.”
They are the people managers and are great team players. They love working in teams and contribute a lot towards team collaboration, sharing, and success. They play natural mediators in defusing team tensions and conflicts.
They mostly succeed in negotiating win-win situations in conflicts and are great communicators. They act like the “glue” which keeps the team together.
Lead by Charisma
Dan Reiland nails it perfectly when he says.
“How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you.”
The dictionary meaning of Charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. “. Charisma is not just saying hello. It’s dropping what you’re doing to say hello. It is just a fancy name given to the knack of giving people your full attention.
Charismatic leaders use this charm to their ultimate advantage. People get mesmerized either by their good looks or witty words and can do “anything” for them.
They are “natural” leaders and are the experts in “getting things done” without putting much of an effort. But having said that, charisma needs to be substantiated by knowledge or it will start to fade soon.
Lead by Empathy
In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek proposes a concept of leadership that has little to do with authority, management acumen or even being in charge.
True leadership, Sinek says, is about empowering others to achieve things they didn’t think possible. Exceptional organizations, he says, “prioritize the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the well-being of one another and the organization.”
That is empathy in a nutshell. Empathy is all about finding echoes of another person in yourself. We all have empathy. It is only that the true leaders have the courage to display it often.
Empathetic Leaders are trusted helpers for everybody at the professional and personal level. They have this great ability to understand the pain of others and alleviating it in the best way possible.
They are great listeners and elegant communicators. People approach them to get that “soothing” feeling of relaxation and self-assurance. They are the ultimate stress busters.
Lead by Problem Solving
There is an interesting statement made by Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s all-time famous book “Murder on the Orient Express.”
“As you yourself have said, what other explanation can there be?’
Poirot stared straight ahead of him. ‘That is what I ask myself,’ he said. ‘That is what I never cease to ask myself.”
That is what problem-solving leaders do every day. They constantly made it a lifelong endeavor to solve and conquer any problem, however tough it might be. For them, Problems are meant to be solved, and not to be complained and worried about.
They are the “smart fixers”. They have an uncanny knack for solving problems and fixing issues which are considered unsolvable by everybody. They are highly valued because of this ability and often find themselves in the midst of critical projects and unwavering deadlines.
Bringing it all together
A title doesn’t automatically anoint one as a leader. Leadership is comprised of a dynamic mix of behaviors, mindset, and skills, which are used to move people where a leader wants them to be for the betterment of the organization.
The ability to lead does not require the support of fancy titles, the corner suite office, and unlimited power. Anybody can be a leader by hard work and using the right traits to his or her advantage. A true leader can function in any position and can still bring valuable results for his organization.
As beautifully worded by Lao Tzu, the famous Chinese philosopher.
“Go to the people, live amongst them
start with what they have
build on what they know
and when the deed is done,
the mission accomplished,
of the best leaders the people will say:
‘we have done it ourselves’.”
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