With individuals requiring tools to take up ownership and responsibility to run a business or any organization effectively, it has become important to understand what transforms a person into a leader and who can have an impact. A leadership coach and Contributing Editor of Colors Rehnuma Karim, PhD. explains the core elements one needs to consider to take the path of leadership.
How do we become leaders? Are leaders born or made? How do we identify good leaders? These are very common questions that we always ask about leadership. We do not wake up one day and discover that we are leaders who are able to influence others and can make a difference through our work and words. No one can claim to be a leader just because he or she is the president of a company or sitting in an authoritative position unless or until others acknowledge or accept the person’s influence. The saying, “A leader is someone people follow not because they have to but because they want to” thus appropriately captures the essence of leadership. That is why there is a distinction between a boss and a leader, where a boss orders and a leader encourages and inspires (Insider, Sep 18, 2020).
Difference between Boss and Leader
The Boss: The elements that are characteristic to a boss are driving employees by establishing authority and inculcating fear into subordinates or even peers. They tend to have a ‘myself’ approach to work, switch the burden onto others, taking credit, command and instruct individuals to go ahead first.
The Leader: While bosses establish authority, leaders enable others by mentoring. They work in accordance with goodwill, generating enthusiasm among peers and team members and refer to employees as ‘we’ to achieve a common goal. They always push to create solutions when faced with deadlocks, show others how they can also achieve the goals, give credit to their team members, develop individuals, ask for team view and step up to reach goals as a team.
While observing and researching leaders, it has been widely noticed that there are some who are Natural Born Leaders and the majority were Made Leaders. From what we comprehend, leadership is a skill that can be learnt even if you are not born with it. Even natural-born leaders might fall short if they do not sharpen the skill they possess or delve into continuous learning and have an open mind to grow. Here we are taking the ‘Leadership can be learned’ approach and examine different aspects that shape one as an effective leader. The journey towards leadership thus is a continuous process that lifts a person to a state in which he or she is ready to take responsibility to not only guide, influence and motivate others to create new ideas and new paths, but also have the ability to lead oneself to do the right thing based on instinct and knowledge.
As the world is experiencing another defining moment in history during the time of an unprecedented pandemic, we all could see how leadership matters as each nation prepare to cope with the crisis reflecting the different styles of leadership and political views of the respective countries. During these trying times, leadership played a significant role for countries coming out or tackling the global crisis.
A leader can either help others rise to their best or pull them down to reflect the worse. Think about Hitler. He appealed to a large population of Germany, had an influence on people, showed power, connected with the general population but fed the fascist forces leading to WWII. Not only nations, but every small and big organizations, businesses, households are going through a shift that is demanding changes to face the crisis. People across the world are also realizing how and in what ways the leadership at different levels or organizations contributed to building either a resilient or broken institute. These are the times when we not only need to step up our games to lead others but also lead ourselves. More than ever before, we are observing how leadership styles are either becoming constructive or destructive as the world seems to be pushed on the set of an infinite game scenario in which the outcome and the players are unpredictable and unknown.’
Leadership today is not at all about the title or position but the action he or she takes to influence others. The new transformative leadership idea nowadays is ‘conscious leadership’, which is also adopted and being advocated by LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. According to him, CEOs and leaders need to lead with compassion and wisdom towards the ultimate goals. In the process, he or she has to first learn how to lead themselves and then invest in developing the people who will be motivated to make a positive impact. All of us have some experience working under or observing people in leadership positions who are not being able to influence others due to lack of skills and abilities that are central to creating a transformative or productive environment. Often these types of leaders create stress in the work environment resulting in an ineffective workforce. If we want to embody effective leadership within us, we need to first understand what makes a bad leader and try to identify if we too feature some of those traits. Once we can acknowledge and become aware of things that can hinder us from becoming the leader we were supposed to be… the journey starts.
The first question that would pop into anyone’s mind is: How can someone spot these leaders? Following are some common characteristics of such leaders that if one is aware of within themselves could take action to change.
Spotting a Bad Leader
Bad leaders tend to feature some common personality traits: Lack of empathy, fear of change, lacking humility and demands attention. They tend to settle for short term gains instead of making impacts. Their nature of being the boss causes them to instruct orders instead of setting good examples for their peers. A lack of vision to inspire, no hands-on approach to work, not willing to serve, lacking communication skills, and unable to take criticism. This self-indulgent nature makes them thrive on praise and tend to believe they are never wrong. Even in cases of being wrong, they would shift the responsibilities onto others. Their indecisive nature makes them unaware of their mistakes, which makes them threatened even by their subordinates who may have marginally better abilities than the one leading currently. Their self-centric approach, inability to give constructive feedback that would enable others and easily giving up in crisis moments exhibit the weakness in their ability to lead. And around us, we can also identify the leaders who inspire us to believe in their vision of what is possible.
Leadership Post-pandemic World
We are waking up to see that we need to grow leaders for the future in every field such as science and technology, politics, business, education, armed forces, sports, and arts and culture so that the whole world can reach the level of what is possible. Each moment of time is based on emerging conditions or scenarios— thus we observe the leadership style is changing. That is why adaptability is also a key signature of good leadership. During these times of COVID-19, we can see that more than ever before that there is an urgent need to create the right environment for leadership and emphasize building high-performance leaders who can courageously take the steps to pull society and the world up in all situations. The post-pandemic world will need leaders who are empathetic and conscious, leaders who will not desire sycophants or blind followers but aspire to connect and collaborate with others to make a difference. As Robin Sharma said in his book titled Leadership Wisdom ‘that the greatest privilege of leadership is the chance to elevate lives. It is undeniable that we all need to be students of leadership so that we become aware of our responsibilities and offer our service to others through sharing knowledge, skills and support. To quote Henry Kissinger, ‘The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have never been’. As Bangladesh is stepping into her new era of possibilities, we need such effective leaders in all sectors who would raise the flag of success and glory taking us to newer heights of achievements.