What sort of leader do you want to be?

What sort of leader do you want to be?  What values do you aspire to? Can you flex your leadership style when you need to? Who do you turn to when you’re in a tight spot and want some advice? How do you want your team to perceive you?

These are questions that virtually every leader will ask him/herself on their journey through life. There are vast quantities of books and internet articles that will help inform the debate but leadership is a multi-faceted trait and requires a multi-faceted approach to develop it. Much has been made over the years about “born leaders”; however, in my 40 years of experience there are few, if any, people who can be described as genuinely natural or “born” leaders. Without doubt, the best leaders have a great deal of natural ability and a personality style that lends itself to inspiring confidence, resulting in a consequent willingness amongst others to follow these individuals. However, even the greatest, most inspirational leaders hone their skills through training and development, it doesn’t just happen! Winston Churchill, arguably the greatest and best-known leader the United Kingdom has ever known, might have been born into a life of privilege but he struggled academically in his early years and only honed his leadership, oratory and literary skills in the Army and during his years as a politician – I very much doubt anyone would have considered him a natural leader at the time he left Harrow and joined the Army!

My own view is that good leadership skills come from a mixture of training, opportunity, mentoring and observation, married with a healthy dose of drive, determination, luck, and sometimes innate ability. Good leaders recognise the need to listen and learn from all those all around them. They draw on the collective experience of their peers and superiors to equip themselves with the best leadership traits they see, whilst recognising and discarding the less worthy traits that they will inevitably encounter along the way. They thirst for greater knowledge and experience and always seek opportunities to lead the pack whilst also listening to the feedback and input from that same pack along the way.  Even the best leaders cannot always lead, and they recognise the importance of being a good follower just as much as being a good leader. They work hard to understand their own strengths, personality traits and flaws so that they can better understand those same characteristics in others, and they have the ability to flex their style to get the best from everyone, regardless of the situation. 

So far, so what?! Well, whatever your current leadership position or aspiration, just pause every once in a while to think about where and how you develop your own style? Who are your role models? Who are the toxic leadership examples you never want to emulate? When did you last get some genuine feedback from your team?  What more can you do to develop yourself in readiness for the next step on the ladder?  The results of those thoughts should tell you much about your own leadership ability and they might just be revealing and helpful!  Enjoy the journey!

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