When many of us consider the concept of leadership, we think of world leaders in politics, or top CEO’s or General Managers of large organisations. But some say that anyone can become a leader. Are leaders born or made and can anyone build leadership skills?
Many of us have never considered ourselves as capable of leadership, or couldn’t imagine ourselves as a leader. We might believe that we don’t have what it takes to lead others, or that leadership is only for certain people with certain traits.
Many of us would rather follow and let others do the leading. We might just want to live our own simple life in our own little corner of the world and get on with finding or building our own slice of happiness.
So what is leadership? Why would you want to develop leadership skills if you have no aspirations to be the next PM or run a large corporation? Can anyone become a leader?
Leadership has been defined in many ways although most definitions have a common theme around the ‘guidance‘ and ‘influence‘ of others.
It is our belief at Positive Living Skills that if you are in a position where you are influencing others, whether you are a teacher or educator, or you are a parent or guardian, aunty or uncle, brother or sister, then you are leading others in some way. Whether you like the idea or not, everything you do and say sends a message to others, and sets an example to everyone around you and tells them what you believe, and what your personal or professional standards are.
If you work with other people, or you are part of a School or Sporting community, or you are part of a family, or you have significant relationships, or you are part of any kind of organisation whether paid or not; then you are part of a culture, and you are influencing that culture in some way.
And no matter who you are, how old you are, or what takes up your time from day to day, you CAN build your leadership skills, AND there are some very good reasons for why you would want to do just that.
We all look to others for a guide as to how to behave, for what is socially acceptable and what isn’t, for how to communicate with others, and how to respect ourselves as well. So you can strip back self- leadership to a day-to-day choice – a choice of focus, or a choice of words or actions.
There is a newer leadership term that we also refer to in our programs called self-leadership.
Self-leadership as defined by the authors of the book of the same name is defined as: The practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and behaviours to achieve your objective/s (Bryant & Kazan 2012).
Self-leadership suggests an intentional self-directed and empowered approach to life, and so in a way self-leadership then becomes leadership of others, because however you choose to focus, communicate and behave every day, becomes the example for others to follow.
Let’s say that you and a friend have both decided that you are sick of feeling tired and unfit, and making a change is extremely important to you both. You have been talking about this for a while and you decide to make a serious decision together – it’s a MUST. You make an arrangement to meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a 6.00am walk. It’s great to do this together because you can motivate each other you say. Then after 2 weeks, the third Monday comes around and you have had a busier than usual weekend and you wake up feeling fuzzy and tired and you would much rather hit the snooze button than jump out of bed. You can think of 3 easy justifications for not walking and you start making deals with yourself in your head. You’re also pretty sure that if you text your friend they will easily join in on the ‘sleep in’ plan.
What you do next is all about self-leadership, and leadership of others.
So what are some of the skills of self-leadership, and how can we build them?
Raise your standards.
This is an important concept in the work of Tony Robbins, especially in his best-seller ‘Awaken the Giant Within’.
When there is something in your life that you really want to change, you can make a decision about what you will no longer tolerate, and who you will aspire to be as a person.
When we start to realise that we have the ultimate power over the course our life is taking, every single day, moment to moment, regardless of what the situation is externally to us, we can raise the standards of what we will accept from ourselves.
Develop your self-awareness.
Self awareness is a major key to self-leadership and self-management, and the starting point to developing your emotional intelligence.
There are many ways that you can begin to find out more about you. You can get a coach or you can start reading or you can complete a self-awareness assessment online to start getting aware of who you are and how you do the things you do and why.
Keep your promises – to yourself AND others.
When you make e a commitment to do something, whether you have said it to yourself or out loud to others, how do you go at following through? Many people have trouble with this one, because there are usually plenty of things that get in the way of what we want to achieve; legitimate things, and then that commitment can move to the bottom of the list.
The thing is, every time we tell ourselves we are going to do something and we don’t follow through, we are eroding our sense of self-worth. Next time you make a commitment to you, make the decision to make it happen, no matter what. Then see how you feel.
Learn the Language of Self-Leadership.
There are so many ways that you can develop the language of self-leadership. Moving from words like ‘should’ or ‘have to’, to words like ‘can’ or ‘will’ is powerful, and keeps you accountable to yourself and others. Move away from stressful pressured language to the language of possibility and then commitment, and then start developing rich language around the positive things you want to experience in life.
When we master the language of our mind, and we start to ask ourselves and others empowering questions, the world starts to look different, and the impossible starts to look possible.
Develop a Growth mindset.
Dr Carol Dweck of Stanford University has spent decades researching achievement and success and the power of our mindset. According to her work, people with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence, qualities or abilities are set, and they spend a lot of time proving them over and over again to avoid failure, and when they do fail, they feel judged and their self-worth takes a massive direct hit.
Those with a growth mindset on the other hand believe that through application and experience we all continue to grow and change and develop, and that taking risks and experiencing failures are how we stretch beyond our current limits to a new way of living. Cultivating a growth mindset is essential for effective self-leadership and for enjoying a positive life experience.
When you begin to lead yourself in positive ways then you not only feel more empowered and fulfilled, you are also naturally becoming a positive role-model for others to see that they can also experience empowerment and growth, and ultimately that is what leadership is all about.
So maybe anyone can become a leader after all.
‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ -John Quincy Adams
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