By VICTORIA SARNE
Authentic leadership ability is often innate but not always; sometimes we have to learn those skills or habits so that we can accept that role comfortably and inspire others. We probably all know the phrase by Maurice Flanagan: “Some are born leaders; some achieve leadership; and some have leadership thrust upon them”.
We commonly use the phrase, “a born leader” to describe a person we acknowledge has a particular persona or skill-set which seems to endow them with a special place in our social or professional circles. If we analyse what appears to make a strong leader, we would find that they have many characteristics in common.
Using the word “leader” to describe someone means we believe them to possess a composite set of qualities or characteristics which, when they all come together, form a solid sense of self-confidence in that person which is visible to us and whom we deem to be trustworthy.
There are several qualities or attitudes which a successful or inspiring leader must develop. These are: possessing a good set of positive attitudes and beliefs; and the awareness and the ability to perceive the negative ones they need to avoid. I read an interesting article by Scott Mautz in inc.com headed, “Highly Confident People Avoid these 14 Behaviours”, which I agree with from my own professional experiences. Society has not yet made it easy for women to assume leadership roles in the same ratio as their male counterparts, but neither have women necessarily had the belief or confidence to reach out for and take those roles. Even with the education and skill-sets required to achieve the top jobs, very often the quality which is lacking is the fundamental belief and confidence in one’s own ability - being “good enough”.
Some of the basic “do’s and don’ts” to remember: good leaders never avoid being accountable and accepting blame for any mistakes - they own them, apologise for them, make amends if necessary and move on. They don’t indulge in defensive behaviour or assign blame to someone or something else. They do take decisive action when necessary and do not avoid conflict but find means to deal with the issue and resolve it openly and honestly. They make choices and are not afraid of feedback whether positive or negative because they are not competing with anyone else; leaders are more likely to view situations as a challenge to improve themselves, rather than dominate another person. Truly confident leaders are not demoralised by failure; they know that failure or mistakes are a given in the real world and understand that they can learn from them. If you look into the history of most of the people we regard as leaders in industry or politics you will see that all of them have had setbacks, many of them major, but undeterred, they have risen to the challenge and started over again, because they believe that their mistakes are not who they are, simply things that happened with or without reason.
Leaders are able to stand alone and make decisions. They don’t wait or ask for permission. This is not arrogance but healthy autonomy and self-confidence. It also does not mean you are reckless or have no fear - it means you are confident enough that you have the ability to deal with it and find a solution. Note, three of the most significant habits or behaviours that leaders do not indulge in are: negative self-talk or talking negatively about others, because they don’t need to tear another person down to promote their own self-esteem; they don’t allow negative energy to permeate their space - it serves only to weaken others and achieves nothing. The last point, one that resonates with my thinking, is that those would-be leaders who make everything about themselves and never stop talking - “look at me, me, me” do not, in fact have leadership potential - they are simply very insecure. If you possess that grounded belief in yourself, are knowledgeable and have a strategic vision to achieve your goal, you don’t need to keep broadcasting the fact, it will be reflected in your stance and your attitude. If you can build this same solid foundation, your “presence” will be easily recognisable and then you too will be the kind of leader everyone is willing to follow.