I’ve watched enough episodes of the BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ to know that the best leaders are not necessarily the ones with:
- the loudest voices
- the most to say
- the best qualifications
- the highest achieving education
- the sharpest suits
Quite the opposite actually – and if any of you can remember taking part in team building activities or assessment centres as part of a recruitment process, you will know that leaders can quietly emerge from the most unexpected directions. They are not always the first to speak, but they are more than likely going to be the first to listen. Those that dive in first and try to take over in an attempt to impress are usually the same people who annoy everyone else, create divides in the group and fail to win respect.
We typically define leaders as people who own certain personality traits, skills and characteristics. But can anyone be a leader? Might it be possible for everyone to have the ability to form and lead a team successfully?
Well, as always with this type of question, I think it will depend! But my experience shows that it seems to depend on one thing above all others – and that is the true connection that an individual has to ‘the cause’. Without this true connection and real sense of commitment, there is (I think) unlikely to be the makings of a great leader who brings on board potentially hoards of followers in order to achieve something magical or amazing.
Could the surprising traits of a great leader be less about them, their personality and their skill set (which flies in the face of much that we have learned about leadership theories over recent decades), and more about their attitude? Could attitude be the ‘make or break’ factor in defining great leaders as opposed to ordinary leaders?
If you aren’t totally and fully committed and enthusiastic about the cause or ‘journey’ that you are leading your people on, then how can others full buy into your requests, the challenges you set and your vision? Why would anyone want to follow you and the pathway you define, if they imagine or recognize that you aren’t totally committed to it yourself?
And how does all this relate to the business owner who perhaps doesn’t have a team to lead, but instead has to lead themselves and their own business? If you are a business owner then it is definitely worth undertaking an honest and truthful assessment of how committed you are to what it will take to make the business what you want it to be. I meet lots of business owners who want more sales, more profits and more customers – but I sometimes wonder how committed they are to the process of achieving this as well as the actual end result. How can customers engage with you if they suspect you aren’t committed to your own business?
So – if you are a leader with aspirations to be better, then maybe take a few moments to stop, reflect and check that you totally believe in the cause that you are leading others (your team and your customers) towards. Your total faith in it will be essential for growing trust and commitment in others. You won’t necessarily agree with or understand every single element of the process that you are leading others within…but to understand and agree with the end goal is vital.