Last week, we discussed some of the differences between management and leadership, the benefits of leadership and the traits of leaders. This week, we will take up how you can develop yourself into a great leader.
Most good entrepreneurs tend to be good managers, too. But to be a great entrepreneur, you will need to be a great leader as well. Being a great leader and a great entrepreneur is not only about the turnover and profitability of your business. Rather, it is also about how you and your business affect others positively. Each of your stakeholders should be impacted positively by you and your business. Again, it is not always about the magnitude of your impact but its sincerity, originality and quality. So, what are some of the ways you could develop yourself into a great leader capable of providing leadership to your people and enterprise?
As always, start from your mind: As a follower of this series, you have probably lost count of how many times we have mentioned that everything starts from the mind. Yes, everything we wish to do and do well must start from our minds. Unless we clearly process and internalise it, we are not likely to commit and put in the effort required to succeed at it. Starting with our minds here means we consciously make a resolution to be great leaders. That includes understanding what leadership is and how great leaders develop and conduct themselves.
Read about great leaders: After your resolution to become a great leader, a good starting point for leadership development is reading the autobiographies of great leaders. Read about great emperors of the past, the military generals, the sports coaches, the great political leaders, and entrepreneurs that succeeded against unbelievable odds, etc. There are great leaders in every endeavour, and you can a lot learn from each of them.
Develop your technical skills: We have already mentioned that managers must be knowledgeable and skilled in their trades or professions. But technical skills are also required by great leaders. Technical knowledge and skills make it possible for a leader to understand what is being discussed or proposed. But beyond just understanding the issues at hand, technical skills make it possible for the leader to add value through provision of wise and better ways to get objectives achieved.
Learn to listen to yourself: Every day, our minds processes billions of inputs. We draw conclusions and make decisions, often subconsciously. Listening to ourselves means picking the right thoughts and dropping the wrong ones in our internal discourse. We cannot lead others well if we cannot lead ourselves first and well. To lead ourselves well, it is crucial that that we are able to listen to ourselves and act deliberately.
Lead yourself: At a low level, the benefit of being able to listen to ourselves is that we can understand what is going on right inside us. At the high level, listening to ourselves is the starting point of providing self-leadership. Unless you are unable to conduct yourself appropriately through self-leadership, you can easily lose the moral rights to lead others. You may still have the legal authority, but you are unlikely to get the most out of others.
You must be in pursuit of a vision: You cannot be a leader without a vision that you are excited and captivated by. You have to also be able to convince others to buy into your vision. Having a clear vision is, perhaps, the first condition you should meet for others to accept to follow you. A vision is about your ultimate, larger-than-life strategic objective. It must be grand, exciting, captivating, and alluring to you and your followers.
Listen to and understand others: One of the areas in which great leaders are always ahead of others is in their ability to listen to and understand others. The followers of a great leader may not even need to speak for the leader to have a good sense of what they may be thinking or going through. Listening to others requires discipline, patience, and emotional intelligence. Listening to others means we can deeply understand others beyond what they say and what they do. It is a key requirement for us to be able to lead them effectively.
Engage with others: Great leaders are excellent in engaging with others at the highest levels. Their engagements with others is always two-way and about the issues that they are both passionate about. As a leader your engagements should inspire, motivate, educate, and reward others. You have to come up with new ideas and projects. You must trust and empower their followers, etc. Even when you empower others, though, you are to take responsibility when things go wrong.
Be sincere: Leadership requires that you have not only a legal authority on the people that follow you but also a moral right. You can only earn the moral right to lead others by doing the right things you need to do, and also conducting yourself impeccably in easy and tough times. Set high standards and be a congruent leader whose followers do not second-guess their motivation.
Unfortunately, many people in leadership positions in our environment do not take the issue of morality seriously. They assume that their legal authority is sufficient for them to exercise control and influence over their followership. This is, however, only true to a limited extent and will always be costly in the long run.
Other issues: As a leader it is vital that you continuously grow your network with the right people; Learn and make your organisation learn from mistakes made. You should ceaselessly develop yourself and your people. It is imperative to work hard with resolve, be a role model and show the right examples to your people. You must be humble, proactive, and responsive without shying away from problems. You must always be there for your people. Quite honestly, leadership is so much more about discharging responsibilities than enjoying privileges. Finally, you have to take your health seriously through taking good foods, exercises and/or as may be recommended by your doctor.
With this we conclude on this series. Next week, we will take up Record Keeping.