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Leadership is a choice, not a position

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 15:01
Leadership is a choice and anybody can be a leader

Most of the time, we attribute organisational success to the decisions of senior executives. This ignores the fact that every single one of us, regardless of our position, make critical decisions each day that all contribute to long-term results.

As long as we feel empowered and confident, we can contribute and transform our organisations from the inside out. We can all make the choice to become a leader, and by developing a leadership state of mind, we can inspire ourselves and the people around us.

The most prominent advocate of this belief is Stephen Covey, author of the landmark book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He argues that leadership is a choice, not a position, and that true leaders have a moral authority well before a formal authority. So, how do we go about developing a leadership mindset to build the trust and respect of those around us?

Use emotional intelligence

Great leaders are aware of how their emotions, both positive and negative ones, tremendously influence their ability to:

  • Make good decisions
  • Be more productive
  • Build positive relationships
  • Inspire those around them

It is no coincidence that the World Economic Forum predicts that emotional intelligence will be one of the most sought-after skills in the next two years. Moreover, hiring managers now rate emotional intelligence higher than IQ. Getting a handle on how your emotions affect your performance is the first step towards developing a leadership mindset.

Show initiative

By nature, leaders are proactive in completing tasks before anyone has asked them to. They spot opportunities to make improvements, and they don’t cut corners when completing their own work. When something needs doing, leaders don’t wait for someone else to tell them to get started.

To be more proactive and better use your sense of initiative, a good thing to do is to approach your role as part of a team, as opposed to an employee of a business. Being an employee means that you might not feel ownership of your work, but if you feel like you are part of a team, that means that you will view organisational success as your own success to share.

Practise communication and collaboration

In their study of more than 300,000 business leaders, leadership consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found that the top-ranked leadership trait was the ability to inspire and motivate others. This doesn’t mean you need to give everyone around you a daily pep talk though.

You can foster the confidence of the people around you just by asking them for their opinions and ideas while involving them in projects where they can make a real contribution. By demonstrating trust and respect for people through improved communication and collaboration, it is a given that they will reciprocate.

Be more effective in decision-making and problem-solving

Part of a leadership mindset is developing the habits and the reputation for making consistently good decisions. Effective leaders do this by avoiding focusing on their own short-term rewards at the expense of what can be gained in the future.

One method to help you make the right decision, as opposed to the easy decision, is to use the 10/10/10 technique as developed by author Suzy Welch. It involves asking yourself for every important decision:

  • How will I feel about it 10 minutes?
  • How about 10 months?
  • How about 10 years?

This process should allow you to put things into perspective and help make the best decision.

Nurture your desire to learn

We know that a commitment to lifelong learning is a key leadership trait, but it is essential to build this commitment into each day. A great opportunity to learn sets in reflecting over completed tasks and projects. While it is important not to dwell on mistakes, we still need to take the time to identify what we can learn from both our mistakes and successes.

This is also about balancing a level of comfort with what we don’t know, with a commitment to finding new information and learning new skills. In an increasingly dynamic business world, a leadership mindset is best complemented by learning agility - the ability and willingness to learn from experience and then apply that learning to perform successfully in new situations.

Developing a leadership mindset takes commitment and focus, but the results will speak for themselves and you will soon find yourself contributing measurable results to your organisation. If you are interested in demonstrating your dedication to be a leader, we have developed AIM Credentials – a customisable short course suite that acknowledges your commitment to leadership in your chosen field, and your knowledge of the critical skills, tools and techniques to perform.