All of us are called upon to assume a leadership role at some point of time or the other. You may be a team leader in your office or a teacher in charge of a class. You could even just be in charge of a group of fellow students working on a science project. As a parent too you don the mantle of a leader who guides those in their charge. However, many or most people would rather be led or in other words have someone else assume responsibility, than take the trouble of being a solution provider. The eminent Management guru McGregor categorises the former as the Theory X type and the latter as Theory Y type of people. Theory X assumes that people are naturally lazy and therefore need to be closely supervised, while the latter are by nature motivated and ambitious, and equal to any task. These would make natural leaders.
Be that as it may, everyone has to learn to exercise leadership from time to time, and it would be a good idea for most people to evolve some form of strategy to help them do that. The following six steps show how one could develop leadership attributes:
- Find your strength- We are all programmed by nature to be unique. So there have to be things that we do better than others. One needs to identify those traits and then work on sharpening those naturally occurring skills. Say for instance you have a head for numbers. That gives you a critical advantage in problem solving, and if people identify you as a problem solver, they will gravitate to you.
- Make a move- You are not going to become a leader merely by thinking about it. You have to be in the thick of action to have any chance of influencing those around you. If you are a problem solver and an expert in a certain area you have got to go and let people know. If all the great inventors of the world hadn’t spoken out aloud about their great ideas we would still be doing a lot of things the old way.
- Develop vision- If you restrict your problem solvinginitiatives to resolving minor issues you will never be a true leader with real influence. For that you need to develop vision and have a larger objective in mind. There is a difference between buying a hungry man lunch and finding out why he went hungry and enabling him to fend for himself in the future. The greatest leaders of all times had this ability to look beyond the immediate and the obvious and pursue a larger and more meaningful objective.
- Don’t be afraid to take decisions-The true test of a leader is the ability of taking a decision and standing by it. There is an old saying-“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. This applies to true leaders. Not only do they take tough decisions but they have the courage of their convictions to stand by them if things go wrong. That is the kind of attitude any prospective leader has to try and develop.
- Sell the people a vision- A great leader is great by virtue of his ability to get people to share in his vision. What did Martin Luther King say to his people to ignite the Civil Right Movement in the America of the 1960’s? -“I have a dream”. A leader has to let the people know that his dream or vision is the same as theirs. This is what will make ordinary people brave impossible odds at the call of such a person.
- Be empathetic- A leader is called upon to share his plans with his followers in an empathetic manner. This will help them identify with the objectives of the leader. A leader has to remember that they are in that position because people feel that their interests are secure with them. So it is always about the follower and never the leader. Isn’t this what all political leaders always profess? They are doing it for the people. A good leader will only show the way forward. He or she doesn’t need to get mired in every small operational detail. If they empathetically convey what needs to be done, those they lead will accomplish it!