Leadership is the “exercising of influence over others on behalf of the leader’s purposes, aims or goals.” The debate about leaders “being made” or “being born” is quite old, and both sides have equally strong points in their defense. But plain logic makes us infer that some people are born with certain natural traits that help them become better leaders.
This, however, doesn’t mean that every person with such traits becomes a great leader. It means that when such people are groomed properly, allowed to harness their inherent capabilities and hone their skills, they are highly likely to become good, even exceptional, leaders.
A true leader needs to be self-aware
Self awareness is, by far, the most important trait that potential leaders can have. It allows us to train ourselves to attain true leadership qualities and skills. In many ways, each person is her own best judge.
To be able to learn new skills and progress in life, the primary requirement is the belief that you are deficient in knowledge and skills, and there is scope to learn and acquire more.
“You cannot improve what you cannot manage, and you cannot manage what you are blind to in your personal habits and behavior.”
– Tim Kight, organizational development expert
What ‘leadership’ means to most leaders
Most “leaders” aren’t really aware of what “leadership” entails. Modern-day corporate hierarchy may put managers in a “theoretical leadership position,” but most managers fail to realize that leadership is more than budgeting and scheduling.
Leadership goes beyond everyday organizational activities to far more important things like negotiating with people and “keeping the wheels moving.” Leadership is the art (and science) of inspiring and motivating people to achieve a common goal. Because a leader needs to delegate responsibilities to other people in accordance with their unique talents and skills, it is imperative for a true leader to be self-aware.
A leader is expected to find her way out of challenging situations and find solutions to problems, however difficult they may seem. Coaching and mentoring sessions by experts can go a long way in honing leadership qualities and getting the required skills. But simply undergoing a couple of “leadership coaching” sessions does not make one a good leader. Leadership training is a continuous process. Skills are like an axe. To keep them functional, they need to be sharpened time and again.
Why continual learning matters
Continual learning keeps leaders abreast of the happenings in their chosen fields. It also helps them acquire new insights in the arena of human psychology, a field they need to be well-informed about. Books written by established and reputed leaders also provide tremendous insight.
Learning can take place through fun activities as well. For example, gamification is a great way to learn. It has been proven that the inherent learning it provides makes the game exciting and appealing. Whenever we play a game, reach higher levels and try to complete them successfully, we are essentially learning to face problems and find solutions that overcome them.
Playing simple arcade-like games, like Hexa Dots, can make for a fun, relaxing and engaging way to learn about overcoming challenges and finding solutions, the two most important traits in effective leaders. In this game, players have to move four dots of the same color into one line to eliminate them. However, new dots appear while the player is in the process of moving the dots, making it harder to put four dots in a line. This kind of activity encourages lateral thinking and develops the ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives to find the best possible solution.
From studies, it is proven being proficient in math can be an advantage for a leader because math skills can help build an analytical mind. Somehow, arithmetic has earned a reputation for being a scary subject. This may have something to do with the way it is taught in schools. However, online tools like Catchup Math can help you brush up on math fundamentals that you may have learned in school but had forgotten over the years. Catchup Math is a platform that uses active and cooperative learning methodologies, with instructional videos, lessons, hands-on activities and practice problems.
There is absolutely no dearth of online tools to sharpen your leadership axe — and these tools help leaders attain the next logical step after self awareness: self improvement. And self improvement is the underlying foundation of being a good leader.
Leadership qualities may be inherited or attained. But what is certain is that leadership qualities can certainly be enhanced and the required skills can be learned and honed. The ambition and the drive to better oneself is a prerequisite to becoming a good leader. A true leader is empathetic to her followers’ or team’s aspirations and shortcomings, and she uses their talents to guide them collectively toward achieving a higher goal.
To be able to improve, leaders should be ready to accept honest feedback. They should adopt continuous learning as a precondition to inspire their teams to achieve greatness.