Natural-born leadership is a myth. Leaders are more often made, than born. The qualities that inspire people to follow and work hard for you are forged through hard experience, change, challenges and purposeful learning.
If you find yourself thrust into a leadership position, that’s likely a reassuring thought. So what can you do to mobilise your own leadership skills?
Show your passion
Passion serves as a turbo-accelerator of motivation, which consequently leads to great productivity. When you are passionate about something (your work, hobbies, and social interactions), you do it with unmatched creativity and dedication, and other people will be much more likely to acknowledge your achievements as fairly earned. Another great thing about passion is that it can be contagious. Leaders lead by example and passion is the most important example that you can demonstrate.
But you can’t just switch passion on. It helps if your work is in an area that you generally care deeply about. That’s also something that can grow over time. Aim to be disciplined and try to notch up small successes. Keep going like that and your passion will start to ignite.
Consider taking a leadership course
Leadership is both an attitude and a set of skills that can be learned. Training and development can be a critical factor in accelerating your leadership ability. Many leadership programmes will bring you together with peers and role models and immerse you in the experience and insights they have gained. For many taking a leadership course is a total game changer.
Add your strengths and weaknesses to the mix
Knowing yourself is at the foundation of leadership. How self-aware are you? When did you last assess your strengths and weaknesses? Good leaders have the humility to see themselves as a work in progress. Tools like the MBTI personality inventory can help you better understand yourself and your team. 360 degree feedback can also be very powerful, if anonymised and received in good faith. Of course leadership is not a personality contest and all leaders sometimes have to make unpopular decisions, but never let that separate you from the insights of honest feedback.
A leader is only as successful as the people who work for them or follow them. You are your people. It’s impossible to be inspired or motivated by someone who hides behind a closed door or a gatekeeping PA. So be open and accessible. Listen and engage. Encourage, support and celebrate success.
Empathy is a critical skill for successful leaders. It means being able to understand someone else’s situation and feelings and to stretch and challenge them in the right way at the right time. If you treat people with decency and respect, alongside setting an honourable and inspiring example, you’ll earn immense loyalty. This kind of leadership is a virtuous cycle.
Face challenges head-on
Decisiveness is one of the most important qualities that a leader can possess. In difficult situations, many people lack the motivation or focus to take charge and tackle the problem, whereas leaders rise to the challenge. Leaders are essentially optimists, no matter what problems they face. Challenges are inevitable; leaders take responsibility, look for solutions and face them head on.