Friday, October 25, 2019

Is Leadership For Me?

Is Leadership For Me?

    "Is leadership for me?" is a question commonly encountered by many potential leaders.  If you find yourself asking this question, I would suggest that you stop and spend a good deal of time coming to a conclusion.  You have landed in the right spot if you are seriously asking yourself this question and in this article I would like to explore possible outcomes and answers as well as be a guide to your thought process.  Leadership is a way of life that is very rewarding and has a lot of peaks and valleys.  It shapes your life and relationships as well as influences your actions.  It is one of the single most rewarding things that you could pursue.

1.  Why Am I Considering Leadership?

    Before we get to the meat and bones of whether or not leadership is for any particular person, I want to take some time to think about the why of this matter.  We need to first ask why we are even considering leadership, or what lead us to begin to search for leadership and find ourselves reading articles on leadership.  Exploring this question will play a large part of the final determination of whether or not leadership is for us.

    I want to first start by mentioning that leadership among very many things is problem-solving and troubleshooting.  Just by taking the time to go on the journey and explore content on the internet relating to a question that is weighing on you is one sign of leadership in and of itself.  It is a logical conclusion that we must ask ourselves whether we are already displaying leadership qualities that we have developed, or is it something that interests us that we wish  to learn more of.  Either one of these are valid, and the recognition of either strengthens us further and brings us closer to making a decision.

    Perhaps you are considering leadership because of a recent conversation or a course that you have been a part of.  Perhaps you are considering leadership because of the possibility of an available promotion, or you are trying to find a deeper meaning to your life.  There is always the possibility that you are considering leadership because of media, films, and influential people that have made an impact on your life at some time and you would like to replicate that.  Perhaps you just have this dream or passion about leadership.  Some people pursue leadership for the glamour of being in the front of a movement.  There is no wrong motivation for coming to the point where you consider leadership, but we must understand the "why" to be able to continue forging questions in order to conclude whether or not pursuing leadership is a good decision for us.

2.  Do I Care About People?

    This is an important part of the determination of whether leadership is for you.  Leadership after all implies that you are a front-person of a group of people or an organization of people.  This means that you are a representative of a body other than your own.  In order to arrive at the conclusion that leadership is for you, you must understand that caring about others is paramount not only to your success, but to your ability to lead others as well.

    I would say that this is a "hard boundary."  This means that if the answer is a clear "no", then perhaps we should immediately conclude that leadership is probably not something for us.  Leadership requires that we not only care about others, but that we deeply care.  The latter stages of leadership involve developing others, defending others, and putting others needs before our own.  It is safe to say that if we do not care about people than we will struggle with these concepts and we will come to an inner struggle when it is time to really produce and perform these tasks of a leader.

    Due to the nature of leadership, many people will push ahead and pursue leadership regardless of their lack of empathy for other humans.  We see this all too often.  As a leader who pursues to grow others into leaders, this is the most common dilemma to encounter.  There is always someone who so deeply desires to be a leader, however, doesn't understand some of the basic concepts of leadership such as the caring for others.  

3.  Am I A Team-Player?

    One of my real life mentors that has most impacted my leadership style was introduced to me during a period of time where I simply did not care to be led by this individual.  I was a floor level leader in a factory, acting as a foreman of a crew of about forty people.  There was a management switch and I ended up reporting to a new superior.  Needless to say I was not thrilled about this change.  The very first week that the changes were made a meeting was called and I reported to the meeting room.  My partners and I gathered around an upstairs open concept office area, I expected new expectations to be rolled out and consequences threatened to be rained down if these expectations were not met.  What we received was a display of welcome and humble thanks for being willing to work with our new leader.  He proclaimed that he was a team builder, and that was his interest for taking this job.  As this meeting rolled forward, the picture began to grow clearer for me.  He wasn't there for himself, he was there for us, for me.  This realization led me to understand a part of leadership that I was blind to, even as a leader of people at the time.  

    In order to determine whether or not if leadership is for you, you have to determine whether or not you are able to take a group of people and value that group as a collective whole.  I mean to engage your mind to think not about self beneficial valuation, but the type of valuation of people that comes from identifying as a team-builder.  As a leader you should seek to become an architect of people, increasing each individual because that increase will mean a gross increase to the group.  If this idea is appealing to you, then I believe that you should continue in exploring thoughts of leadership.

4.  Am I Someone Who Can Be Followed?

    One of my favorite assessments of other leaders is perhaps the most simple, "Do they have any followers?"  Lets be honest, if no one is following you, then you are only leading yourself.  This is what I call the meat and bones of leadership, because it is usually items that fall under this question that people use to determine whether or not leadership is for them.  There are a host of personality traits that are indicators of potential success as a leader that usually sit in the forefront of a persons mind when determining whether or not to pursue leadership.  This is usually due to looking past the more fundamental principles of leadership that we have discussed in the prior sections.

    We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and determine if we can be followed.  I am not trying to spark harsh emotional roller coasters of self-judgement and a rising level of self doubt here.  I am simply wanting you as a potential leader to be honest with yourself.  Do you care about people?  Do you value others?  Do you rise up to challenges?  Can you troubleshoot problems and experience success?  Can you fail without wiping out?  Can you rebound from your failure?  Can you make people feel good about themselves?  Can you hold people accountable without cracking?  Can you speak with a straight face and clear voice?  Most importantly, are you able to learn, adapt, and overcome obstacles?  These things have one thing in common, and that is if the answer is no, it does not alter your ultimate ability to lead.  If you have gotten past the first three sections, implying that you understand why you are considering leadership, you value other people, and you entertain the thought of caring about a group of people then all of these things can be developed within you.  There are a few that are more important than others, but soft skills are skills that leaders are constantly improving within themselves.  Soft skills are skills that will not break your ability to lead, but they are skills that you have to a certain degree and to experience great success you should be actively working on developing them. 

    One of the most important soft skills involving leadership is integrity.  Integrity is a word, however, libraries can be written about its substance.  Integrity has very deep meanings when it is used to describe the personality of a leader.  It can be introduced by saying that it is the "thing" that we are talking about when someone does the right thing when no one is looking.  Integrity is structured on moral principles and honesty.  When we delve into some complex topics of leadership where we explore trust and quality of relationships than we begin see that a leader's integrity has a spotlight beaming down on it.  As leaders we must practice integrity.  If the thought of doing the right things and developing personal integrity as a part of your central character, leadership may not be for you.  On the other hand, if developing your character does not sound appalling, I would suggest that at this point leadership may be for you and you should get a bit more serious about your determination.  I believe that I should mention that like integrity, this follows with all soft skills.  You should be understanding that there are core skills that a leader has and that while you do not have to be a master of these skills, you have to be willing to allow yourself to grow and develop them.

    I believe that if you have made it to point number four and the only thing you have to worry about is your soft skills, you should do an inventory of what skills you have and where you currently stand with them.  It is important to be honest with yourself here because this is going to determine how much work it is going to take for you to develop yourself.  Obviously someone may be much closer to hitting the ground running if they have an inventory of highly developed skills at their disposal.  Opposing this is someone who fits the profile and has their mind in the right place but has a lot of work to do before they would be very effective as a leader.  It is important to journey this self assessment and then make your decision about whether leadership is for you, or whether leadership may be for you in the future.  There is always the possibility that leadership isn't for you at all.

When I Determined That Leadership Was For Me:

     Having spent about a year with a new organization that I enjoyed being a part of, I enjoyed my job.  I would show up to work on time, rarely miss, and perform my duties to the best of my abilities every day.  I would try to brighten everyone's day and I prided myself on being a good partner to work with on projects.  I frequently considered the possibility that I would be positioned at this level in the organization as I was until retirement, and was satisfied. 
    I understood that there was more that I could contribute to the team overall if given the opportunity, and I was always hungry to help.  This was as far as my current thought process went.  I never intended to become a leader.  Some crew changes happened, and I found that there was an opening bid for a foreman position on my shift.  Here came the questions.  The idea of leading my team sounded grand and glamorous, but it was really something frightening.  I beat myself up for days about whether people would ever listen to me even if I got it, I began asking myself questions like, "would I even listen to me?", or "what makes me so special?"

    I did not stop to think about how others saw me or whether anyone else, including my superiors, thought that I would be a good fit for the position.  After much deliberation I thought to talk to another foreman about this.  I did not expect the walk-away from this conversation, because they had encouraged me to sign the bid even if I was remotely interested.  Apparently, from my care of people and my interest to help and brighten the day of others on top of whatever performance that I added to the team effort, others had already viewed me as a leader in my own right.  This led to an astounding understanding, that leadership isn't in position, it is in reality.  No position or title is required to be a leader.  This was a huge breakthrough.  I began analyzing encounters with others and looking for opportunities to take leadership roles long before the interview process for the foreman position had begun.  Here is where I started my journey into leadership.  This has been one of the most rewarding paths that I have traveled, and I suggest that if you are interest in leadership, you owe it to yourself to pursue it.  I have never been happier in my life since, and studying leadership has added value to my life and my family, and I am sure that it will to you and yours as well.

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