“To be a Leader or not to be a Leader” – about Leadership

Leaders and Leadership

A common sentence that we hear often is that leadership is given not taken, is it true? Another common sentence is that you are born a leader, that it is a natural gift. In some aspects it is. But, there are some attitudes that can be acquired to change that perception.

A born leader – or so called – is an individual with charisma. He has a natural empathy with people and can convince them to do what he wants. He has a global vision of situations and quick answers to the problems. He keeps himself cool when the world is exploding around him. He remembers names and profiles of anyone around him. He is a multi-task professional. He can control different areas of business and even different businesses. He is a natural negotiator, internally and externally, on business environment. He manages people naturally. He evaluates, knows how to choose and attracts the best professionals to work with him. He is a visionary. He is a reference to the novice and also to the savvy professional, and so on.

Wow! Seems an endless list to accomplish!

Actually, those skills can and should be achieved by anyone that aims to have a senior position, to manage any organization, team or group.

First of all, you should make a self-evaluation to know if you want or not to be a leader and have more responsibilities, and to dedicate energy to achieve that goal. It is not an easy path, often shifting very quickly from success to failure and from failure to success , and many times it is a lonely path.

Be careful with promises like “10 step to become a leader”. There is no magic, or recipe or formula to transform you into a leader. To be recognized as one it takes a long path and a natural evolution.

But you can prepare yourself to, when it comes the opportunity, be ready to assume the responsibility.

Below you can find some suggestions to prepare your journey:

To lead you need to have followers, though first thing is to know how to deal with people. Improve your people management skills, have at least three different references or methodologies and techniques to achieve it. Read some books and take some courses, short-time courses with highly recommended or recognized professionals, not the first one that you discover on the web. People management is easy to teach, difficult to practice. You will be dealing with feelings, empathy, motivation, egos, power disputes, accommodations, fears of changes, and so on. Nowadays, also, cultural aspects are fundamental, we live in a globalized economy and connected world, and awareness of different cultures is essential.

You need to know how to make presentations and to speak in public. Related to speech and presentation is also the ability to conduct, control and start and finish productive meetings.

Negotiation is another basic skill. You negotiate internally in your organisation and also with business partners. You negotiate almost every day in many situations and in many places.

Be a strategist. Scenarios development, evaluation of situations and figures, and decisions based on truly reliable information will be a daily activity. Improve your strategy skills. Read Sun Tzu, Mintzberg, Prahalad, Porter, and so on.

Prioritize your activities, organise your agenda and have always a daily moment to new insights and to assess trends. It is important to stop and self-evaluate what you are doing and results achieved, and always search for innovations and think out-of-the-box.

Benchmarking is another important activity; learn with other leaders, where they had success and where they failed.

Keep up to date about political, economical, and cultural news and business related.

Nurture your networking, professionally and personally. Join the winners, your reputation will be, many times, measured by your links. There is a quote that says: tell me who you know and I will tell you who you are.

Balance your life and work. There is a tripod between work, money and family pay attention to all three. If you have one unbalanced area, it will cause stress in all others. Professional success is not every thing in life.

Nowadays, the time of the “smart guy” is surpassed with all the issues that we are seeing globally with the recent international crisis - ethics, social and environmental responsibility and governance.

To finish, don’t rush. Hurry is an enemy of perfection. Again, as already said, leadership is given not taken. You will need to be prepared and with a broad spectrum of skills and experiences. Anything that comes very quickly also goes. So to have a strong and rooted ascent it needs time, perseverance and self-confidence which only well prepared people will be able to achieve.

By Mario Luis Tavares Ferreira