Let’s start by identifying what leadership is NOT. No doubt you know someone in a management role who thinks that some combination of the following renders them a leader:
- Big title
- Name on an org chart
- Authority over people
- Nice office
- Reserved parking spot
- Social media followers
- Being a decision maker
Perhaps most importantly, leadership is not management. Leaders are important. Managers are important. But they are not synonymous and interchangeable. Managers manage things and processes. Leaders influence and drive people. Great leaders can be lousy managers and vice versa.
We know that strong leaders do not simply bark out orders and demand compliance from their teams. They have the ability, rather, to build trust and consensus, and to work toward a common goal. That is because the one characteristic that all successful leaders share is a high degree of emotional intelligence. The ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others is a real skill and one which is in short supply. It generally includes three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.
In other words, leaders are those to whom others look for reassurance, direction, and guidance. People don’t look to leaders for a list of tasks, and leaders don’t expect their teams to simply execute on tasks. Rather, true leaders have the ability to inspire and to guide. A great leader is one who recognizes that he doesn’t know everything. That’s why he assembles a team of smart people who help to inform his decisions. A great leader listens to input from his team and shows respect. In contrast, someone who lacks leadership ability tends to coerce or demand conformity and refuses to acknowledge the expertise of others.
A true leader finds ways to link people’s interests, instinct, and intuition to produce the desired results. Leadership fosters creativity, creates contribution, and most importantly, solves problems. A great leader allows his team to shine more brightly than himself. A great leader is humble, equitable, and inspiring. Think about how you can incorporate leadership qualities into your life to help you succeed in your career and your personal goals.