I have some thoughts on what it takes to be a leader in general. No puns intended for general as in an army general but it was meant generically. Anyway, being a leader fully involves paradoxes as you will get to see in this article.
A leader should know the art of being a good follower as well. Same concept as a good conversationalist. A good conversationalist has to be a good listener too, paradoxically. In fact, what would probably be challenging for a leader to do would be to know when to follow and when not to. Following does not mean giving up or giving in but leading from behind. Leaders should be willing to give others a chance to lead. Speaking of which, they should be learnable as well. Do good teachers make good leaders? Probably yes because they need to possess leadership qualities in order to be an effective teacher. For an instance, we would have come across teachers who allow their students to teach their peers sometimes, since some students learn better when being taught by someone of the same age.
The society demands leaders to be ones who are beyond the natural negative emotions like anger, hatred, jealousy, revenge, selfishness etc. Yet, they still need to be forgiving, jovial, kind and understanding. Leaders should not just lead but also lead by example.
Creativity is an essential charateristic too. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the best examples of a leader in history, was creative with his general approach. He thought of non-violence when every soul could only react violently. In other words, he responded while others reacted.
"Don't react. Respond" - Zig Zigler
Moving on, I think a leader should know the team members individually. When managing the team, poor leaders play the game of checkers while successful leaders play the game of chess. In the game of checkers, every piece is the same. They move the same way and get slaughtered the same way. Bad leaders treat all their members the same way with self-same expectations. Chess on the other hand, is a game with unique pieces. They move differently. Prior to this concept, good leaders would be able to identify each and every individual members' working styles to a certain extent and be able to utilise them in the right manner. It makes it easy for the team as well to explain things to the leader, knowing that he will know what they are into. The team members would be more willing to open up to the leader if they are facing any difficulty. Also the leader has to make them feel special and important by involving them whenever necessary. Needless to say, giving credit for a good job done would boost their morale tremendously. The leader gains respect this way.
Having people skills are of paramount importance and technical knowledge alone can never be complete for a leader. Having said this, it was no wonder that Andrew Carnegie was the "king of steel" once upon a time not because he knew a great deal about steel but because he knew how to deal with people who were working for him. In fact, his employees knew about steel more than him.
These are just some of the tips to be a successful and well respected leader. Before wrapping up, I shall translate a few lines from an old tamil song.
"Generosity makes a philanthropist; dutiful makes a warrior; patience makes a saint; whilst these three make up a leader".
- Thanaseelan, visit http://www.worthofwordplay.blogspot.com to view his main blog. Don't forget to check out the categories on his blog.
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