The question of who should be “in charge” is extremely topical at the moment, given the current political climate in both the UK and abroad.
Whether observing President Trump’s much-anticipated state visit to the UK or waiting for the early results of the Tory leadership race, there has been plenty to fuel the national debate on what makes a decent leader.
In business, of course, the role of leaders cannot be overstated. A great leader can take an acorn of an idea and coax it into a giant oak tree. However, a bad leader can poison the ground in which the acorn is planted before it can even send out a tentative green shoot.
If you’re in a leadership position – whether as a business owner, CEO, manager or team lead – you might feel fairly confident that you’ve got what it takes to inspire, motivate and direct your staff to achieve your objectives. After all, the qualities that make a strong, effective leader should be pretty obvious… Right?
Well, not necessarily. Let’s be honest, we’ve all known – or, if we’re unlucky, worked for – people who simply didn’t have what it took to lead well. Even generally high-performing leaders can make mistakes in certain areas of management, mistakes that can have a significant negative impact on morale and performance.
So, why do we get it wrong?
I think it’s fair to say that many businesses make a common mistake when selecting existing staff for promotion to management positions. They assume that because someone is fantastic at the job they were hired to do – great technical skills, in-depth product knowledge – they will automatically make a great manager.
When identifying your leaders of the future, it’s good to be aware of the broad matrix of skills that is required to craft an effective manager of people and processes.
If you’re a person who aspires to lead, ask yourself why you want to take on that role. What qualities can you offer? Are you fully aware of the responsibilities that leadership brings and can you meet those needs, with the skill set you currently possess? Being honest with yourself is the first step to becoming a good leader.
The second step is to engage with high quality leadership training. Very few people are born knowing how to give critical feedback, resolve interpersonal conflicts, delegate effectively or deal with the countless other challenges that leadership brings.
But they can learn. I believe that good leaders can be made, not born. Education is the key, along with the support and guidance of those who are already leading the way.
Originally featured on Linkedin – June 2019