When you think of a successful leader, what images do you conjure up? Richard Branson, charismatic and exciting or Alan Sugar, straight-talking and bad-tempered? How about Hilary Clinton, ambitious and driven?
What about closer to home, your current boss, your former teacher or even your parents or grandparents – what kind of leader were they? What impact did they have on you?
Our view of leadership is normally shaped by our experience of either good or poor leaders – and this is not normally questioned, particularly if the majority of our experience has been with one type of leader.
Unfortunately people in positions of leadership do not always set a good example, nor are they always equipped for the role. The common mistake most people make is equating leadership with seniority and big business, but this is an outdated and incomplete picture of real leadership. The truth is, effective leadership is firstly about behaviour and can be found in all kinds of settings: businesses, teams, social clubs, families etc.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
Effective modern leaders demonstrate attitudes and behaviours which relate well to humanity. They include integrity; honesty; humility; courage; inspiration; passion; confidence; wisdom and determination. These attributes help build the psychological contract, setting the expectations between the leader and their followers.
Good leaders are followed chiefly because people trust and respect them rather than for the skills they possess. A study by the Institute of Leadership and Management which looked at the top qualities people looked for in a leader found; inspiration (55%) came top, followed by strategic thinking (41%) and knowledge came in on a much lower premium at 19%.
If you are looking for opportunities to develop your leadership potential, the good news is, because leadership behaviours can be learned, you don’t have to wait until you become the chief executive to grow in this area. You can begin honing your leadership acumen right now. Use the exercise below to begin the journey to developing leadership behaviours that generate real influence and help you become effective in all areas of your life.
Develop your leadership behaviours: Write down your responses to the questions below
Think about the leaders in your own life, they can be parents, teachers, colleagues, managers, role models:
Why did you want you follow them?
What inspired you about them?
What did they do well?
What can you learn from them?
Who do you want to be led by and why? List these qualities. (Use these qualities to select the leadership behaviours you want to develop).
Think about the last person who led a team of which you were a part. How would you score their leadership behaviours? What lessons does this reveal?
What leadership behaviours do you need to develop?
How can you build the psychological contract with those you wish to influence, based on developing and using those behavioural skills?
Finally, some wise reflections:
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard
“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” Aristotle
Professional coach, Suzanne Simmons-Lewis helps her clients clarify and achieve their true purpose and ambitions in their careers and businesses, drawing out their unique talents. She inspires, supports and challenges clients in their journey to making their long-held dreams an exciting reality.