Early on in my working life I believed the terms “leadership” and “management” were (a) synonymous, and (b) only applied in work-related scenarios; you know, as in hooey like “The manager’s job is to lead his team to victory” or some other bullshit we’d continually hear from our (generally unmotivated) bosses who oversaw us in the crappy minimum wage jobs we held in our teens. The thought of “leadership” being something other than the work-related motivational speeches I constantly heard from my superiors (a.k.a. “Do it because I said so”) was a weird and foreign concept to me.
Then as I grew older and worked a few more jobs, I slowly realized that “being a manager” and “displaying leadership” were both important parts of the synergy and synchronicity needed to run a successful business enterprise. However – and much to my dismay – it also seemed that the two rarely mixed company in the people I had been reporting to. In fact, as time went on and I continued to work my way through menial job after menial job, and for crappy boss after crappy boss, it became as evident as the pimples on my face that I had about as much of a chance of finding a manager who was an actual leader as I did finding a unicorn who pooped rainbows and gold coins; or that Farah Fawcett-Majors would finally leap off the poster on my wall, flash that famous smile and declare her undying, passionate love for me while peeling off that red one piece and, well… you know. Come on now, I was 16 years old! But I digress…
The fact is that a sad (but true) fact of my early employment was this: Most of the “managers” I reported to were nothing more than lacklustre employees who got promoted into positions way over their competence and skill levels, and whom were bestowed with very little (if any) training on how to actually lead a team. And much to my surprise, this phenomenon wasn’t reserved just for those who oversee horny, pimply faced teenagers, (like “16 year old me”) trying to earn a few bucks after school and weekends by washing dishes, scooping ice cream and making salads, oh no; this “High-Security” level of incompetence continues well into our adulthood, including many of what we deem “grown-up” jobs. Yep, for me at least, the theory that “Management” equals “Leadership” was still being debunked well into my 40’s, something which became evident whilst working for a boss I refer to as “Big Guy”, and even beyond.
So, being surrounded by this brutal incompetence all throughout our working lives makes me wonder: If we can’t learn leadership traits and skills from the people who have been hired and promoted to – well – lead us, where the hell are we supposed to learn it from?! It’s a fair question to ask!
The good news is I believe I’ve found the answer to this question, and here it is: These days I’ve come to believe that real “Leadership” has nothing to do with our jobs, our work, or who we oversee as a boss, or whom we ourselves are overseen by; in other words, contrary to what I believed for years, “Leadership” is not synonymous with management, a fact that should come as no surprise to those who still have shitty, moronic bosses to contend with – no matter of what age they are, or career level they are at.
No, instead I believe “Leadership” is about integrity; it’s about how we handle ourselves as people in our day to day lives, both on the job or off; it’s also about the example we set by treating those around us with dignity and respect, and what we do in order to make others feel good, safe and respected, using both our words and our actions. Leaders live their lives as examples, and don’t fall prey to the pettiness of other people’s insecurities. For example:
True leaders genuinely say “Please” and “Thank-you” a lot, be it while ordering a Big Mac and fries, picking up a DVD at the video store, whilst speaking to a spouse, child or neighbour, or even those times when somebody holds a door open for them at the grocery store. Leaders don’t freak out in front of others when somebody “steals” the parking space they were waiting for, they just go find another. Leaders also don’t bitch and moan about the people around them, despite them being a major pain in the ass; nor do they make fun of other people less fortunate than themselves, regardless of what their internal dialogue may be saying at the time. No, A leader won’t do these things – they opt for “the high road”, instead asking the question “How can I help?” to in order try and make things better for all those involved.
Leaders lead by example every opportunity they get; and as a result, people admire them, count on them, look up to them, emulate them, and above all, are often swayed by them and their behaviours. And do you know why true leaders have this kind of influence over others? It’s simple: It’s because people want to be like them; and more importantly, they want others to see them in the same light as they see the leader. But here’s the thing: Being a leader isn’t the luck of the draw; it’s not who you know, who you are related to, what job you have or whether or not you have a full head of hair. Leadership is 100% about attitude and behaviour – and anybody who understands this also realizes that in order to be a leader, all someone has to do is act like one, day in and day out, until eventually people begin to follow their lead. So if this sounds good to you, check out:
12 Sure-Fire Traits of Leadership Anyone Implement Right Now
- Be polite and kind to both strangers and friends alike; say “Please” and “Thank-You” with every single encounter you have with people, every single day. Leadership treats everybody with respect
- Set personal goals, make plans, then work those plans HARD to achieve those goals. Once you have, “rinse and repeat” – only bigger next time! Leadership sets and achieves goals; it doesn’t quit halfway
- Don’t dwell on the negative; look for the good in all situations. Once you find it, expand it, and make it so big it overshadows any of the bad part. Leadership always sees the glass as “half full”, not “half empty”
- Always be Proactive vs. Reactive, and keep thinking four or five steps ahead to avoid obvious problems down the road. Leadership anticipates potential problems before they happen
- Be enthusiastic and confident when tackling projects; this gives others the enthusiasm and confidence that they can to achieve the goals! When problems arrive, don’t get frustrated; look for solutions so you can help the team move forward. Leadership is enthusiastic and energetic!
- Having said that, make sure you can also be both flexible and adaptable when things don’t always go your way; a leader takes control of situations, good and bad, and then helps chart a course to success. Leadership is also flexible and adaptable
- Be a good communicator by speaking clearly; but more importantly, listen to others, and considering different points of view from your own. Be open-minded to the suggestions of others. Leadership communicates with others, openly and fairly
- Constantly be learning new things, and developing yourself through books, seminars, workshops, programs, retreats, etc. A true leader is always learning something… Leadership is always learning and growing
- Be comfortable having your idea’s challenged; welcome feedback and thank those who provide it, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it; everyone has an opinion, and leadership always give them a chance. Leadership is open-minded enough to hear – and respect – the opinions of others
- Make sure you are impeccably organized with all tasks and projects – hours of preparation may appear to make your efforts seem, well, effortless, and that’s the point. Leadership is being completely organized, all of the time
- Have a good sense of humour; enjoy the light times just as much as you enjoy the serious times, since nothing bonds people together like a good laugh. Leadership enjoys humour, and uses it to help connect to people
- A leader inspires his team to get the job done -whatever that job looks like. They must often be the initiator of new ideas, and then the one who motivates the team to go after them. Leadership inspires those around them to be better tomorrow than they are today; it also asks the question “How can I help” any chance it gets.
Hope you like this list! Let me know what you think in the comments below, and thanks again for checking them out! Fish… OUT!