Musings of leaders in the making: the stuff leaders are made of [Part 1]
Written By: Akunna Onwu, Associate Coaching Course graduate
Prospective Executive Coach
Mentorship & Wellness columnist, The Corporate Canvas
I am sure that many of us have at some point or another, come across the elusive term ‘leadership’ – and questioned what it really meant to us. Many articles have been written on leadership: What it is? What are the attributes of a great leader? How to become a leader etc.? For a long time, leadership seemed like a great elusive notion that was meant for people who are great or have at least achieved great things. It seemed so unattainable. Well, I for one could never ground it for myself and apply it to how I interacted with the world. It was something so loosely defined that one only hoped and dreamed of becoming. Perhaps only when we are CEOs or Managing Directors of companies can we consider ourselves to be leaders. I hope in the series of articles to follow that I am able to dispel this myth.
Leaders are not only CEOs or people with great titles behind their names. Leaders are you and I in our own spheres of influence, as minute as they might be. And how does one attain this you might ask? Well, by recognizing the impact and influence you have on those around you, irrespective of how insignificant you might deem it to be.
I recently came across a quote by Robin Sharma which reads “Leadership has nothing to do with the title on your business card or the size of your office. Leadership is not about how much money you make or the clothes you wear. Leadership is a philosophy. It’s an attitude. It’s a state of mind. And it’s available to each one of us.”
What a profound statement- “Leadership is a state of mind.” That begins to put things into perspective. In other words, if I change my attitude and my state of mind does that mean I am automatically a leader? Another interesting quote is by Bernard Bass who provides a practical definition of leadership: He states that “leaders are agents of change — persons whose acts affect other people more than other people’s acts affect them.” Well, I agree with this quote to a certain extent. I believe as a great leader you are even more open to learning from those around you.
More often than not, we come across people that, although we may not directly be involved with, have had an influence on us in some way or another – and I have found it very fascinating to understand what their “X factor” is. In certain instances it might be your boss or the CE of your company. But in other times, it might be the old man that you see at church that gives you that one word of wisdom or even a particular store attendant or a waiter at your favorite coffee shop. Have you ever wondered why you always feel the need to want to be served by that particular person or be around them? Well, it’s the feeling you remember experiencing when you were served by them. They say people will forget what you did for them or what you said but they always remember how you made them feel. Great leaders truly understand this.
There is a quote which reads “True Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. This is a philosophy which I embody in my dealings with others and it is the contribution that I wish to make in the world. I believe that leaders are people who have the ability to influence others (positively) and empower them to become leaders themselves. They inspire in others, with conviction, the belief in being more and doing more which then denotes that each of us are and can be leaders in our own spheres of influence. As such, we need to be aware of the impact and influence we might have on others through our words and actions. Great leaders understand that it is about giving and not getting. It is about empowering those around them to be leaders themselves. I find that many of us shy away from the fact that we ourselves can and are leaders in our own rights. This fear is due to the lack of conviction and confidence we have in ourselves to lead first ourselves and then others. However, if it is truly an attitude and a mind shift as well as the ability to influence, then we are on the right path to becoming great leaders.
There are many attributes used to describe a leader, even a great leader for that matter- the ability to inspire, motivate and influence others positively; someone who is focused, passionate, confident, accountable and authentic to name a few. Without a doubt, these are all wonderful and great qualities for a leader to have. However, I believe at the core and heart of it all is the element of service. In other words, a great leader understands that it is not about them and their ego and the “power” they derive from the leadership position but rather, it is the humble call to serve others that makes a truly great leader. This in turn denotes that such a leader is one who exudes humility. In other words not taking for granted the gift and privilege bestowed on them to lead others. It is also being able to acknowledge ones weaknesses and being able to ask for help through delegation to one better suited for the task.
In the coming weeks, I will delve further into what makes a great leader, the types of leadership there are and what are the key attributes you can start building and working on for yourself to achieve this no longer elusive, but tangible philosophy in your everyday life. This I hope will enable you to recognize the true authentic leader within. Remember, great leaders recognize that it all starts with service to others. However, you are only able to serve by leading others when you can lead yourself.