When you start looking for answers about leadership, the dictionary defines leadership as follows:
When I look at those definitions, I see exactly what the average leader thinks, and especially how corporations and governments like to view leadership. There is one word that comes slightly close, and that is guidance – but the problem with guidance is that it is normally one-sided. By definition then, the rest of the words are simple masks for manipulation and then it is easy to understand what they actually think guidance is. Looking further down the list are, as they say, just positions and that is as far from leadership as you can possibly go. However when we start to look at these definitions, then we too can understand why my friend and leadership observer Adriaan Groenewald coined the term Toxic Leadership, and you can read more about that on his Global Leadership Platform.
I know from my experience that leadership training ranges from less than effective to not effective, and the reason is simple. We have been taught to be self-serving and think of ourselves first, we have a strange belief that if we become successful, we can in some way help others, yet we need these people to get to where we want to go and achieve success.
In this article, I want to break down some myths about leadership and look at a few possibilities.
When are you a leader? You are a leader when you are able to serve others and not yourself! It’s not rocket science at all, it is so simple, yet we overthink and try to find importance in the idea of leadership. Leadership is about being humble and thinking for the people you wish to lead, and how you can help them get to where they want to be.
What about the job that has to be done? I hear this so often, people tell me there is no time for this fluffy leadership stuff, we need to get a job done. Really, is that your excuse for being a useless leader?
What we all need to understand is that everyone is coming to work and doing what they do to make their lives better and not worse, so we can agree that everyone is trying to make a buck. If you want to be a leader then it is your task to help them make that buck and to the best of their ability. When you get them to that place where they are working to the best of their ability, you will get the results you are looking for and then it will be easier for you to achieve success.
Where are we going to get time to do this leadership stuff? This is exactly why leadership training is so ineffective, the average person attending any sort of leadership training sees it as either a waste of time or simply a time away from the normal, and as we know a change can be as good as a holiday.
A great deal of what a leader requires to be effective is empathy and creative thinking. This sounds fluffy but the reality is you are there to make them successful, not to make their lives comfortable. Success never came through comfort and it takes plenty of hard work, and you need to determine the reason for the existence of every person in your team. This is where empathy and creativity are required.
If they value their jobs people should be prepared to do their work to the best of their abilities. I know in organisations most people are lazy, to say the least, and they have the HR department protecting their lazy asses. As a leader, you are going to need to be more creative than ever to ensure that people actually do something that they are paid to do.
You are looking for people like YOU
Ask yourself what you want in life and how you are going to achieve these things. When you have a vision for where you are going it becomes easier for people to follow you. If you don’t have a vision, realise why those who are following you already are lazy – because you were too lazy to have a vision!
Yes, leadership is that predictable and easy, but most people don’t realise the example they are already setting by not having a vision. The title of this section is true, and you will always find the people similar to you and they love following you.
If you wish to get ahead and become successful, you will need people just like you and you need to give them a reason to follow you. If it is your ambition to be successful then you can serve them, simply because you understand where you are going and they will follow you to that place of success. Good leaders create and inspire other leaders, not just followers.
How can you serve them better? Think simply and share whatever you need with them. Here are a few ideas:
- If you needed information, share your source with them and help them understand the information by breaking it down and making it simpler. Have a conversation about it and get their ideas and thoughts.
- If you found inspiration, share that inspiration and realise not everyone responds the same, so find new and creative ways of sharing that information with people.
- Understand that challenges happen, help people find ways to conquer obstacles and help them find solutions instead of accepting excuses.
- Help people find others they can work with by focusing on and understanding each person’s strengths as this will make the team stronger.
- Show them that the life outside the work environment is also important, find out about their families so that you have a better understanding of the person you are trying to serve.
In summary, leadership is about consistently serving the needs of others and ultimately as Zig Ziglar said ‘You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.’