Leadership encompasses the ability of an individual, group or organization to “lead”, influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. True leaders understand that leadership is all about people. The task of leadership is to align people and motivate them to work towards shared goals. Unfortunately, some companies are stuck in a more traditional managerial view of leadership as something possessed or owned by one individual due to their role or authority. In this view, leadership is a title. There is so much more to leadership than a title. Leadership is serious stuff and it takes dedicated effort to develop yourself into a true leader.
Management is the process of dealing with or controlling things or people. A second archaic definition is trickery or deceit. A company that manages people utilizes trickery to fool people into believing they are being led. Instead, they are being controlled liked pawns on a chess board. Great management can get positive results for the company; but, it almost never invests in the people. Management has to maintain power because that’s the only way to control the team. This is very different than true leadership which develops their team to eventually lead. The goal of leadership is to inspire and encourage team members to attain their highest potential. In other words, leadership is people-centered and empowering.
If a manager desires to become a leader, there are characteristics that have to be internalized. These characteristics include:
- Self Awareness. True leaders are always aware of their strengths and weaknesses and reflect on their decisions and actions. Leaders always strive to improve and are accountable for all their decisions.
- Empathy. True leaders understand that leadership comes from the heart. Relationships with their team are important. These relationships are cultivated through empathy, listening and communicating.
- Integrity. A true leader does what they say and they mean what they say. They are full of character, transparent and honest. They work hard to gain the respect of their peers. They are very aware that they need the trust of their peers to be able to lead.
- Vision. True leaders lead with purpose and values. They make the team aware of where they are being led. This inspires the team to aim for that goal/vision.
- Listening skills. True leaders know that they are able to gain more information by listening and keeping an open mind to others’ ideas. They will even make changes to adopt viable ideas from their team.
The time and energy expended in the development of these leadership characteristics is completely worth it. When an individual embodies these characteristics, all are able to recognize the authentic leader. They are visible because they are surrounded by an empowered and inspired team. If you see a lackluster, tired and uninspired team, look for a manager at the helm.
Anyone who thinks that true leadership is not necessary within an organization is insane and fooled by the management in place. So, don’t be surprised when the results are the same.
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