You’ve decided you want to know what it takes to become a leader. We’re with you in this, but – be warned – we hit a pretty big obstacle pretty quickly.
That obstacle presents itself through this undeniable fact: there is a predictable set of lies we tell ourselves when it comes to leadership.
Worse, we tell these lies to ourselves and others repeatedly. Let’s come clean by looking at maybe the biggest leadership lie of them all: “Some people are just ‘natural born leaders”.
There is no such thing as a natural born leader. But we have heard, repeatedly, that some people just emerge from the womb as unbelievably gifted leaders.
Now, unless our ego is well above the average, most of us assume we are not one of these ‘born that way’ types. So, we start out in our life as leaders with a disadvantage, right?
Having worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people we’ve learned that leaders are not born; they are made.
In reality, leaders are forged.
And there are two flames that forge all the very best leaders: self-awareness, and the ability to ask and answer the right questions about leadership. This series of posts will examine these four critical questions that shape transformational leaders.
The most remarkable leaders we know are the most remarkably self-aware.
Self-awareness doesn’t just happen. You don’t wake up one morning in the land of self-awareness. You work at it.
Self-awareness means you know what you’re good at. You know what you’re not good at. You know what you bring to every meeting, every project, every encounter, because you’re attuned to who you are.
You don’t just talk a good leadership game, but you play one out on the field, where there is mud and blood and conflict and the stakes are high.
Given this rooting, here’s the first of four questions which forge great leaders:
How do I learn leadership?
If people aren’t born leaders that means they must learn leadership somewhere. And the best leaders can point to a moment in time when they realized: I have to learn to lead.
There’s a skillset that goes with management. You hone your craft and you learn to manage that skillset well. You’re a good manager. But then there comes a critical point, a very specific moment in your life where you think, “You know what? I’ve got to do something more than manage my people, I’ve got to lead them.”
There is a stark difference between management and leadership. We see this most clearly when we determine “I am going to be a leader not because I was born a leader, not because someone has called me to be one and not because I have a particular role or a rank or a position, but because I feel that it’s the right thing to do.”
So, how do most people learn leadership? Well, most people don’t learn leadership. They know all the right words, but they don’t actually learn it.
If you learned how to be a leader at all, you probably learned it from somebody who wasn’t one. Most of us have worked for somebody who, to put it bluntly, was horrific as a leader.
Our leadership style, if we have one, is based on what not to be. Our leadership, as a result, is reactive.
Now, you can learn some great things that way. People who work for you are probably thankful that you’re not like that other person you worked for. But knowing what kind of leader we are not isn’t enough.
We have to determine to become proactive leaders. We must decide firmly to learn leadership with an effort of heart, mind, and soul.
Are you ready to make that determination and take the decision to grow as a leader? Then you’re ready for the next three questions.
Next…”What tools do I need in my leader’s tool belt?”