Okay, so there isn’t a single blog post out there that can actually tell you how to be a leader, but I’ve been listening to people and reading up on it and have come to a conclusion. You CAN read a blog and get an idea of where to start. You have to decide to pursue the path and then take the initiative to actually start your journey.
Don’t let this blog post confuse you in regards to being a manager versus being a leader. These two roles are totally independent of each other. It is somewhat unfortunate that all managers are not leaders; being in a management role is the perfect place for leadership to come out. Leadership, however, can start at any level. In fact, I once heard the phrase “lead from the bottom up.” That phrase really made me decide that leadership is something that I have a passion for and not something I would take lightly. You can lead from any position, from a file clerk all the way to the C-wing. Don’t let your current position or lack of direct reports dissuade you from choosing to lead. Even if you simply like working “behind the scenes” you can be in a position for leadership.
Despite what some people say, leadership skills can be taught. Sure, some people have the “leadership aura” around them, but leadership is about relationships. It is also about making good decisions. The following traits that were discussed in a seminar I attended recently are a great place to start practicing leadership skills.
During that seminar, an open poll was conducted on what qualities or traits were needed in order to be a leader. Not surprising, many of the items revolved around actual management duties, but the number one item did not: Integrity. It is such an important word, and one that can be and should be practiced at every level. Integrity is a lifestyle of commitment, a constant decision to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not someone is watching us. Integrity, as the root of your leadership style, will define how you interact with everyone you come into contact with and will be remembered.
Feedback was the second most often repeated trait. Feedback should be honest and balanced. If it is always positive, the team will not learn anything. They will go through their career believing they are a better performer than they actually are. On the other hand, if it is always negative, chances are they will quit and find someone who is balanced and will at least provide them a little positive reinforcement.
The third trait I’ll discuss here is trust. It is essential for a leader to have confidence in the people they are leading. Trust can encompass a number of other items on the list but for the purpose of a shorter blog post, I will simply leave it at the fact that trust is empowering to your team and can actually help them grow rather than “managing” their every move to make sure they make the right ones.
Making the choice is the first step to actually becoming a leader. Once you take the bull by the horns and commit, miraculous things can and will happen. Trust, give good, honest, and balanced feedback, and above all, have integrity in everything you do. Once you have begun to master these traits, your teams will notice and follow your lead.
About Our Guest Contributor
Jim Shaffer, PMP is a project manager and is also a part-time story teller to my amazing children. He has extensive experience in IT projects (web and infrastructure), large documentation projects for industrial equipment, and Integrated Logistics Support and Total Life cycle Management (ILS-TLCM), as well as familiarity in management of the production of industrial equipment programs. He enjoys project communications, process creation, documentation, and streamlining.