What is Leadership?

Leadership comes in many shapes and forms. I don’t think anyone is born to be a leader; however, it looks like some are born with natural leadership potential. Whether you are a born leader or not, everyone can learn the skills they need to become one.

Even though leadership is usually associated with business, the skills are something we all can develop throughout both our professional and personal lives with time and practice. It might be just as important, or even more important, to be a good leader in other walks of life than just at work. I think that we all have taken on leadership roles numerous times in our life, without realising it. It might have have been in sports, in the kitchen, with kids, in our relationship or with animals, just to mention a few.

Leadership is not a position you can apply for. It is not something some deserve and others do not. Whether you are a CEO, a housewife, a football coach, you have to earn the role of being a leader by constantly work on the development of your skills. Leadership is not a destination; instead, it is something we all can develop throughout our lives. A leader is a person who can influence, inspire, and help people around them achieve a goal and succeed because they are able to point out a direction and build an inspiring and clear vision for others to follow. A leader gets things done and make things happen. Good leaders will always look for ways to improve things and help both others and themselves become better. A good leader will never ask anybody do something they haven’t done themself.

Let’s not confuse a leader with a boss. These are two very different things. I have seen quite a few bosses around so let me point at some of the differences. The most obvious difference is that a leader leads and a boss pushes. You might agree with me that there is a big difference if you are inspired and directed to do something instead of being pushed to do something.

Another obvious thing is that we have two ears and one mouth. A good leader listens to the people they lead. They appreciate a good brainstorm and love that all parties can be heard and equally valued. This creates a good energy within the team, and nobody is afraid to speak their opinion. A boss usually dominates a conversation and might miss out on valuable knowledge and skills from members of the team.
Developing leadership skills takes commitment, time and courage. A leader, or a person aspiring to become a leader, will face challenges from people and surroundings. The challenges might knock them off track, but a good leader will be motivated to search for solutions to get back on track by going under, over or around the challenges.

A leader has to work on their leadership skills every day and has to keep themself motivated and inspired. So how do people do that? There are so many ways to stay motivated when you know what you want and where you are heading. Personally, I keep myself motivated by learning from my team members, cross lines, customers, industry leaders and others. I read books about leadership behaviours and personal development on different levels. I simply try to develop and improve my leadership skills.

Let me briefly share one story with you that demonstrates how leadership can be challenged and how a good leader stays focused and solution oriented, never giving up until they reach the goal. I hope it will inspire you.

It’s the story of a group of salesmen traveling around in the East to sell their goods. One day they must cross a very big desert on camels. The fine sand in the desert is so hot during the day that not even the camels can walk on it, so the travelling needs to be done during the night. They hired a local guide to help them across the desert during the night when the sand had cooled down. They planned to camp and rest during the day. The trip would take close to 3 nights.

They started their journey across the desert with the guide in front and the salespeople following him. All had their own caravan pulled by camels. After 2 nights on the move, they started the last leg of their journey. This would be the last night of the travel and the guide started relaxing and fell asleep. He did not pay attention as his lead camel started walking to the side, and the other camels followed. When the sun rose, the salesmen realised they were back on the same spot where they camped the previous night. The camels had walked in a big circle. Now they were tired and angry and shouted at the guide as there was hardly any water left and now they would all die in the desert.

The leader realised that they were in a difficult situation and if he now lost courage and initiative, lives would be lost. He started to explore the area and discovered some grass. He was sure that there was water underneath, otherwise grass would not be there.

He suggested to the others that they should dig down under this grass area, as there was a big possibility of water. Everyone started digging and soon they found a large rock. This was a challenge to break. Everyone lost hope and started to blame the leader again, “We wasted our time and energy.”
The leader said, “No, my friends. It is not a waste. If we give up now, all our efforts will be in vain. I suggest we continue our work.” He put his ear on the large rock and heard the sound of water. Powered by this discovery he asked the strongest man amongst them to give all his strength and break the rock. After a few very hard hits with the hammer the rock split open, and water gushed out from it. The entire group were overjoyed and filled up all their water pouches. The leader and the guide were relieved and continued to lead the journey.

In order to evolve as a leader you need to do the things that you do not necessarily like or are comfortable with. You have to get up earlier than you want to and you have to give to others without getting anything in return immediately. You have to care about and see more in others than they care about and see in themselves, or in you for that matter. Sometimes you will feel insecure about taking difficult decisions. You have to keep investing in yourself when no one else is doing it, and you have to pay attention to details when others do not. You have to find your own truth and not believe everything you are told. You have to keep getting up if you fail, even when your mistakes make you look like an idiot. If people are cruel or disrespectful to you, keep being kind to them. You simply have to keep moving forward no matter the obstacles you meet.

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