With countless books on developing leadership skills, a myriad of articles each with the best strategy on how to effectively lead, and hundreds of social media sites that strive to improve one’s leadership abilities, one stops and wonders: Where do I start? How do I choose the best strategies and approaches with people that I manage and lead? And how do I know that these strategies and approaches are the best?
The best way is start developing your leadership capabilities is from within yourself. With all the before mentioned leadership tools, it’s very easy to lose the focus, and invest your energies in learning new leadership skills and models rather than investing your energies in building you. Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller (2004) compares leadership to an iceberg – 20% of leadership is what we see – skills or “doing”, and 80% is what we cannot see – leader’s character or “being”. Thus, “starting from within” and developing one’s character is a fundamental basis of effective leadership.
Great leaders know themselves very well. Know your strengths and your challenges, and embrace your challenges. Once one embraces and acknowledges them, one’s challenges become a cornerstone for professional and personal development. It’s almost paradoxical; the more ownership we take over our challenges, the less a challenge and more a strength they become. The process of working through our challenges takes humility, and many times it means asking for help from others who have gone through a similar process. Thus, always ask for help from someone whose leadership skills you respect.
Always know where you are going and where you would like to get to. One cannot lead people not knowing their own direction. In simple terms, stick to the mission and assess the “big picture”. Whether you are leading 600 people or 2 people, it is important to step away mentally (and sometimes physically) from daily operations, place daily problems in a perspective, assess and focus on the ultimate goal of you and your followers.
Be truthful about your motivation and intentions. Ask yourself “Why am I leading, and do I believe in the course and the mission of my organization?” The people whom you are leading will be loyal to the organization and believe in the mission only to the degree that you do. “Everything rises and falls on leadership” (Blanchard & Miller, 2004).
Never lead out of fear. In dealing with daily challenges, it is sometimes easy to lose the focus, and base our decisions on our fears: a possible loss of a contract, client, or an employee. It’s important to take into consideration all factors and possible consequences while making leadership and business decisions; however the best decisions are those that serve the ultimate organizational goals rather than serving single interests or situations.
Leadership is never a task, and always a process. Thus, while you are embracing this wonderful and very challenging process, always keep You in focus.
Blanchard, K. & Miller, M. (2004). The secret: What great leaders know – and do. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publisher, Inc