We all hear the motivational videos on YouTube and inspiring occasional addresses which tell us to be a leader.
Don’t follow the herd like a lost sheep, they say. Forge your own path, and walk down it with confidence.
The question is usually how, and to what extent.
Being a good leader though is something that can confuse even the most intelligent of minds. The vast number of leadership books, blogs, essayists, and development programs exemplifies that.
For me, I find there are four dimensions to being a good leader (perhaps even a great one). These attributes with being an authentic leader.
People who are self-aware are able to understand what makes them a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ person. They understand their strengths and their limitations, and are capable of overcoming these weaknesses through effective strategy. Having a deep understanding of strengths and weaknesses allows leaders to capitalise on what makes them ‘good’, and mitigate the effects of what makes them ‘bad’.
Being self-aware also means understanding those things around us, and not being isolated in only thinking of ourselves. We can begin with our own strengths and weaknesses, and we can continue with evaluating and improving the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. After all, a leaders job is more than goal achievement, it is also to develop and make followers better people too.
This one sounds a bit technical, but don’t be concerned as it is a lot simpler than it looks. Being authentic in relationships means being open and honest. A transparent person that others understand doesn’t get gossiped about at the water cooler, because their peers do not need to fill in the gaps in their leader’s life. When we are the same true person all the time, we do not arouse unnecessary suspicion and we can be seen as trustworthy and perhaps loyal.
We’ve all had bosses that we have not liked. They might have been somewhat friendly, but they seemed like they were only there out of necessity. They might have been hoping for a promotion to get off that floor, or maybe they were just having difficulty dealing with their teenage daughter. The point is, if we don’t know, we might be likely to make it up or make guesses, and that doesn’t make us want to like or trust someone.
Again, technical jargon. This one is about the old maxim ‘think before you act’. When we process ideas and information in a balanced way, we consider all the possible information we have before making decisions. We consider our own biases, acknowledge them and try to factor them into our decisions.
This one seems simple, but it is sometimes difficult. We use the other three components to work this one out. After we consider information in a balanced manner, we have to develop our own moral framework. This is different for everyone, but necessarily so. Deciding what we think is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is not always easy, and we have to use our own skills to understand what we think is the best thing to do.
From this, we have a toolkit of four dimensions which allow us to be better than we were. These skills and attributes provide a necessary framework to make the normal human into a good leader.
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