We associate leadership with many different things. Probably the most common context of this subject area is the corporate world, as we relate that term to corporate leaders, managers and bosses. We are partly right doing so, as such context gives the basis for understanding the idea of leadership, however, it doesn’t give us the whole picture.
According to dr Brené Brown, „a leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.” From this perspective, leaders can be parents, teachers, managers, clergymen, scouts, singers, actors, politicians, journalists etc. etc. etc. So, basically each and everyone of us will sooner or later, at some stages of life, regardless of whether it is for a short while, for longer or forever, have to become a leader. Therefore, it’s worth preparing for this role. Let’s start with identifying the traps awaiting us on this path.
Leadership: the first trap
Idols. We unnecessarily waste time and energy on pondering and constructing countless models, formulas and guidelines on how to be a good leader. We read yet another biography of Steve Jobs, follow Muska and Branson, comment on Merkel, watch the next step taken by Ardern and then try to copy their behaviors, decisions, courses of action or business approaches. There is absolutely nothing wrong in drawing inspiration from these men of the hour. The more good examples, the better. However, inspiration can become more of a caricature when we attempt to become like someone else and stop being ourselves. After all, before being leaders, we are, first and foremost, human beings, and each and everyone of us is different.
The second trap:
Masks. We put on masks because we think that this way we can conquer the world with a show-off version of leadership. We think that by acting like a pissed boss we can gain more than just by being our real selves; or that by being considered a reserved and cold-hearted manager, who “couldn’t be bothered less”, we can build authority, or that playing a role of a hearty manager will get us what we want from whoever we want. We forget, however, that these are all still just masks and people can sense when we are putting up facades.
Fear of judgment. It’s a powerful force that makes us constantly look for approval from others. We stop being ourselves and taking the strength from our authentic personal brand. Instead, we keep asking ourselves: how to get everyone like me? what to say, how to behave, so that all my colleagues or proteges accept me and think highly of me?
How not to fall into these traps?
In order not to get entangled, I suggest to start with the very basics, that is to honestly answer the following questions:
- what is really important to me?
- what makes me go ahead in life?
- how do I build trust?
- what is my dark side?
- what do I dislike about myself?
- how do I handle judgement?
- what am I afraid of?
- what do I find hard to handle?
- what makes me bounce back after adversities?
- what motivates and inspires me?
- when do I feel that I am my real self?
- when do I pretend to be someone else?
- what gives me energy?
- what drains my energy?
The list wraps up with the most important question of all: why the world needs me as a leader? What do I bring to the world? What would the world be missing if it wasn’t for me? I know you might want to say: let’s cut that spiritual crap.. but seriously … let’s take a moment to think about why we’re even here in this world and what for.
And then all you have to do is to assemble all this information to see what your foundation is that you can build the authentic – that is strong and effective – leadership on. And having done that, if we want to take on an even broader perspective, we sure can research on various types of leadership models, courses, seminars or leadership skills development programs. But only then. Neither before, nor instead.