Lead self before leading others
A general question that many young and aspiring leaders ask is – how to become a good leader? Which books should be read? Who should be the ideal? Is there anyone who has all the qualities of a good leader or more precisely, is there any one person who has been unanimously acclaimed as a great leader? Do we look up to different leaders for different qualities and then try to emulate all of them?
A leader is one, who follows a continuous path of self-improvement and leads himself/herself before leading others.
After reading multiple books, speaking to people and looking around for the leaders who I thought were the best, I finally deduced the formula to be a good leader. In my opinion, a good leader is one who leads himself well before leading others. This is especially true of organizational leaders. Employees look up to a manager and respect him or her if they see the manager as one who knows his or her own goals clearly and who can clarify the employees’ roles properly. How to achieve company’s business strategies and goals and align them to the employees’ roles and aspirations? This is a challenge that every leader has to meet. Following are some strategies to resolve this issue.
To begin with – leadership is not a particular act, behavior, or any one skill for that matter. It is a combination of all these and more. A leader is someone who is a motivator, a talent engager, a strategist, a facilitator and an executioner of plans. A leader is one, who follows a continuous path of self-improvement on the following points:
Aspects of Improvement for a Leader
1) Emotional front – The very first step in this regard for leaders would be to understand their own emotional strengths and weaknesses. Once this has been mapped, the next step would be to understand the impact of their emotions on others. A leader must also understand the emotions of their team members and all those who are around them. Profiling people on the basis of their emotional, physical, intelligence and skill-wise capability forms the foundation of the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threat) analysis. This enables leaders to understand their team’s response to a situation or a task and it also helps them to charter their engagement and growth plan.
If your people grow, so does your business. Hence, keep profiling self and team after every quarter. Everybody has a learning curve and businesses too are dynamic.
2) Social front - This is a must skill for leaders. It enables leaders to gel well with people across geographies, genders, teams, roles or any mental divide they may have. It is way more than good conversational skills. It includes articulation, understanding rules of society and business, being a good listener, knowing the likes and dislikes of their audience and being capable of gauging what people will be interested to hear in their small talk as well as long conversations in different situations. They are adept at transitioning between different roles that they play. A leader with good social intelligence is a much more powerful growth facilitator for self, team, and business.
3) Physical front – If you have the desire to shine as a leader, you have to be healthy too. The various other activities that a leader has to do will take away a huge slot of time and what gets neglected is health and wellbeing. Physical wellbeing also reduces mental stress and anxiety while improving sleep patterns. If a leader is physically unwell, they will not be able to deliver their personal and professional commitments with the same energy and enthusiasm. Quality of work and relations will suffer too. On the other hand, a person who is physically fit is more energetic, positive and motivated.
Exercise moderately and eat well. Obviously one needs to be ‘fit to lead’.
4) Intellectual front – This trait is all about the following:
- Being creative
- Having the capability to make tough and good decisions
- Being business as well as people oriented
- Being able to do all of the above at all times consistently and efficiently
To ensure that these parameters are attained, a leader must be open to learning. Leaders often excuse themselves from any learning initiative citing business as a higher priority. Not managing to take out time for learning will help you manage business productively, but only for a short while. In the longer run, your abilities will get limited and lose the dynamism that is required in a constantly changing business environment. One must read a lot, pick up skills from different avenues and be ready to get into difficult conversations.
Keep challenging your intellectual curiosity at all times and keep it sharpened.
Three questions that will help to enhance this particular skill are –
1. What is the new skill/knowledge that you have picked up in the last quarter?
2. What is the new creative and stimulating idea that you have come up with recently?
3. Which are those practices which need to be changed in the next quarter?
While the above 4 traits are some of the most important aspects of leadership, but there is one more thing that a leader has to practice day-in and day-out. It is essential that they have a very high moral standard. A leader needs to lead by example. If you can’t follow, you can’t preach it too. A positive leader creates & maintains an environment which has trust, integrity, a sense of belonging, respect, ethics, and happiness. The leader who strives for all these qualities is rounded and whole.
Hold yourself to a high standard. Consistently try to raise the bar. By bringing in all these factors, you will be able to become an effective leader and reach newer heights. It is the responsibility of the leader to lead self before leading others.