Did you know that you are a leader? You don’t need to be the CEO of a multi—national company to be a leader. Just think for a moment – who looks up to you? Who comes to you for advice? It could be your kids, it could be your workmates, or it could just be a friend who comes to you for your opinion. In all of these cases, you are taking on the role of a Leader.
In any of these cases then, how good are your leadership skills? At the heart of modern leadership, Leadership skills are people management skills.
- Leadership involves skill in communicating and dealing with people
- Leadership is the ability to understand and motivate – not coerce and force
- Being in a position of authority, a parent, friend, a manager or boss does not make you a Leader; but being a Leader does make you an excellent manager, boss, parent and friend.
- No matter what we do in life, if nothing else we need the ability of Self Leadership.
‘Gestalt’ is a German word that roughly translates as ‘synergy’ and basically means that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ A metaphor for this concept might be that of a horse pulling a cart. One horse will be able a pull a certain load at a certain speed. However, when you add a second horse, together they can pull more than twice the amount of two individual horses. Add a third, fourth, fifth horse and the load and speed capability multiply exponentially. Creating a workplace, family or business team that are all pulling together in the same direction will create much more effective results than a group of individuals all pulling smaller individual loads in slightly different directions and at different rates.
Bosses and managers don’t necessarily understand the needs of the group. And if the group is not united in their direction, i.e. if they have no common mutually beneficial goals, they’ll all be working towards different aims and have different understandings of how to achieve those aims. Essentially you will have a fragmented bunch of individuals rather than a synergistic team. The frightening thing is that this may not even be apparent at first! A fragmented team doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in conflict. You may think that things are working fine and you and your staff (or family) are doing the best you can… but how do you know? Have you found out? Do you know how to find out? Sure you could ask but if there’s a perceived “us and them” attitude in your team, they’ll just tell you what they think you want to hear. Think of your kids saying “yes mum/dad…” then ignoring you!
Research in Australia and NZ shows that people who see their leader as being “one of us” with values and outcomes aligned to those of the group are much more respected. Of course leadership isn’t just a case of conforming to the group norm. A true Leader who can communicate his/her needs into those of the group and/or inspire the group to see their needs as being the same as those of the leader, will be virtually unstoppable as the team will work hard to achieve the desired outcomes whether the leader is present or not. This is the difference between being a ‘boss’ or ‘manager’ and being a true Leader. Of course this does not mean that bosses and managers cannot become great leaders in their own right!
A leader creates ‘team spirit’. It has been said that “There is no ‘I’ in team,” I beg to differ. We’re all part of ‘teams’ in some respect. Even if you are the CEO of your own company you still have to fit into that team. You’re definitely also part of a family team. We are none of us an island. But no matter how much we’re involved with ‘team’ environments – sports, clubs, families, work, etc., we all still consider ourselves as individuals with individuals needs regardless of the context!
People have to be able to relate to a leader; therefore part of the skill of leadership is to be able to relate to others in ways that are appropriate to each individual whilst keeping the team goal in mind. Often blithely saying “There is no I in team” creates conflict and mistrust as it sends the message that “I don’t respect your individual needs and ideas as a person”.
Creating a shared social or personal identity is also an important skill of a leader. Relating to others in contexts outside of the normal or professional environment. For example, if you work in an office but enjoy windsurfing as your hobby, you are much more likely to have a positive feeling towards a boss who shows a genuine interest in windsurfing than one who doesn’t care or considers it a stupid pastime. Perhaps you have a family with young children and your boss expresses an interest in their well-being and/or tells you about his/her family. A simple remark such as “how are your kids enjoying the school holidays?” can warm you to that person more than if they showed no interest in you personally. You are much more likely to want to do a good job for a boss like that. Leaders should keep this in mind.
Good leaders and executives are mindful of the importance of communication and motivational training for themselves and the members of their teams and are aware of the increased revenues that can be achieved as a result of aligning the two.
So what specifically are the attributes and behaviours of leadership? If leadership is the ability to understand, motivate, inspire and create team spirit; then the skills involved are those of;
- understanding others and their (unconscious) drives
An article in Time magazine stressed the need in the current economic climate to focus less on technology and systems and more on the untapped resources we all have… our skills, our personal abilities – our minds! When times are good it’s important to invest in personal development and training for yourself and the people that work with or for you. In tough times, it’s even more important! Executive Coaching and personal and team performance training develops our potentials and untapped resources. When tough times end, you don’t want to be licking wounds and recovering; you need to be the first horse out of the gate in order to get ahead of the competition, build bridges and ensure your success.
What areas in life are you a leader? And how do you inspire, motivates and engage those important people around you? Leave a comment below.
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