What comes to mind when you hear the word leader? Most people associate leadership with positions, titles and power. Leaders are not managers, although managers can be great leaders. At the core of leadership is a deep passion and sense of responsibility for those you lead. Great leaders inspire others to dream, learn and do more than they thought possible. If you aspire to be a great leader, the following nuggets can offer a great head start
- You do not need a title to lead
In his book, ‘The leader who had no title’ Robin Sharma shares some great lessons on leadership and why you don’t need a title to lead. In fact he argues that if you can breathe, then you can lead. But how many of us hope to be leaders some day? Not today. Some day. Earlier in my career, I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a manager. As a sales rep, I believed that changing my title to sales manager would help me close more sales. With time, I learnt that you become a master of your art by giving your very best, challenging yourself and being better than you were yesterday. And that success requires forward investment.
“To become a great leader, first become great.” – Robin Sharma
I once came across a twitter trend on what makes leaders great. Most people argued that the greatest mark of leadership is influence whether positive or negative, so I googled, ‘The greatest leaders of all time’. The list included leaders such as Mandela, Hitler, Fidel Castro, Mahtma Ghandi, Martin Luther Kings among others. One leader who featured on all lists was Ernesto Che Guevara. Che read over 3,000 books and authored over 30 books. At the time of his death (age of 39), his latest article was 3 days old. As revolutionist and a guerrilla leader, reading improved his personal intelligence, his ability to innovate and get insights. It also made him a good communicator, a trait that many who listened to him loved.
Other leaders today attribute their success to reading. Bill Gates reads 50 books every year, Mark Cuba reads at least 3 hours a day and Warren Buffet read over 600 pages daily at the start of his career as an investor.
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other (J.F. Kennedy). Through reading, leaders LEARN and RELEARN. Challenge yourself to read not just what you like, but across different fields.
3. Your greatness should be manifest in your absence
According to research most family business do not get to the 3rd generation due to poor succession planning (PWC family business survey, 2016). Most HR professionals will tell you that they have an existing succession plan for their businesses but this is mostly on paper and not really alive. These trends point towards the gap that exists in leadership. As a leader ask yourself, “What would happen in my absence?” Beyond the projects and programs that you implement, what will those you lead remember you for? True leaders identify their successors, MENTOR them and make themselves unnecessary. My former CEO used to say, “Work yourself out of your job.”
Leaders invest in people.
4. No one was born driving
Remember the first time you ever drove? It felt like all drivers were born driving. I remember driving at 30kph on a super highway with my hazards on. Everybody zoomed past me. Driving everyday made me bolder and with time I became that driver that zoomed past others. In the world today, everyone seems to know what they are doing but that is not entirely true. Most are actually figuring things out. If you looked inside or if they told you the truth, most will admit to being scared, but have chosen to take bold steps.
The things that scare us are the things that will ultimately fuel the leader in us. Jim Collins calls them Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG). Great leaders understand the need to set goals that are clear, stretch us, scare us and inspire us and those that we lead.
What is your 2018 BHAG?