There's books on it - tons of books, actually. Barnes and Noble has it's own section on Leadership. Why are we so concerned with the right path to obtain leadership positions? Or why are we trying to find the so called "secret methods" to leading successfully? Problem is that a lot of those answers are subjective to who you are leading. If you don't understand your people, you won't lead well.
In my many leadership courses in college, being in leadership roles, reading books on the topic, and being involved in a church community that values being above reproach as leaders - I've made a few notes about the paths to being a leader.
1. It's more about influence than leadership.
Dale Carnegie is famous for this concept and directive. There are tons of books, seminars, and courses surrounding this topic that he's produced. It applies to leadership really well. If you have an effect over the character and behavior of others, you can help guide them to a place of abundant growth. It's a path to movement forward for everyone involved.
2. Serving the people around you speaks volumes over a well crafted speech.
I believe this, and I was a speech/rhetoric major in college. I love a well-crafted, well-delivered speech. However, the short and simple, to the point directives are the ones that will stick. Serving alongside the people you are leading shows that you are willing to do the hard work. Those few sentences about how you see them an you appreciate them are important. Show that you're not above any mundane task. Asking and planning ways to encourage and appreciate your people makes them feel safe and secure. We need those basic needs served in order to grow.
3. Communicating present needs with stewardship for the future is the best visionary plan.
I've had my share of bosses, CEOs, and presidents that have wrestled with the best way to create vision. I've had transparent and very closed off leaders. If you want buy in from others for future plans, being honest first about the needs right now for the people around you is crucial. Get that right first. Address those basic needs to keep your organization running, and then provide a framework for new plans. A more transparent, open-to-suggestions environment at the beginning stages of vision preparation is a basic research method that we so often gloss over. But if we nail down that research first, the planning can be seamless with little criticism.
4. Listen, really listen, to personal needs and interests of those around you.
Listening for understanding and not for response. We're all working on that one. Don't go in with an agenda in mind on what you think you'll find out through your series of questions. Craft them in such a way that you'll get the answers you need, but you won't let it hinder your listening capacity. Leaders should be doing 20% of the talking.
5. Not everyone is meant to lead. Followers have the necessary skills for the daily work we so desperately need.
In a world obsessed with being a leader, I think we undervalue followers. We have too many leaders, too many cooks in the kitchen, and not enough workers to reap the harvest. Vision means nothing without action. You need followers for those action steps. In my own personal experience working for two non-profits, much of the work is based on sacrifices, lower paychecks, but more reward for the work you do. Understand the mindset of the core followers and you'll get somewhere that's worthwhile.
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