May 30, 2016

Is Being a Great Leader Really Just About Being Yourself?


I regularly read, listen to, and study some really great authorities on the topic of leadership; I am fascinated by the many schools of thought on the topic.

There are so many definitions, models, and principles that it can make your head spin. On my bookshelf, there are 60 different books that contain 60 different perspectives on leadership. All this serves to create the notion of an extremely complex subject.

What if the subject of leadership is really not complex at all? What if it is as simple as being yourself? What if it is no more complex than being the best self you can be?

I have had several conversations recently with people who are struggling to figure out how to be a leader . . . or a better leader. Each seems to be caught up in trying to follow one person’s “5 step process to better leadership” or another’s “essential, have-to-do-it-this-way model for leaders”. While I recognize that there is much to learn from others (and I fall in the camp of “I can learn something from everyone”), we all get caught up in trying to follow a particular teaching and attempting to be different than the way we are created. For instance, some teachers advocate vision as the characteristic most needed by a leader. However, if you look closely, those people tend to be naturally visionary in their approach. Others promote a “Get-it-done” style of leadership; those people tend to be “get-it-done” kind of people. If this is really the case, then how do we become better leaders if we can’t always be or do what the latest leadership book tells us?

Be the best you that only you can beSounds simple; but how does this help you be a better leader?  Start by asking yourself what you are good at. What do you stink at? What are you passionate about? What types of things energize you? What drains you? I think most people would be surprised how much they can discover about how to be a better leader just by looking at themselves.

  • Know yourself.  Be honest, ask for feedback, and be prepared to learn things that may surprise you.
  • Why would someone follow you? Is someone going to follow you because you’re trying to be someone you’re not?  Or would they follow the real you?
  • How can you use what you find to serve others?  Is there a way to leverage who you are to become a better leader?

What I’ve detailed here is definitely a strengths-based approach; but it goes beyond that. I do not mean to be disparaging the need for growth; we should all stretch ourselves to grow and develop. I am simply saying be the authentic version of yourself. Leaders don’t always have to be out front, visibly directing every aspect of a team (unless that is naturally who you are). Some lead from the front, some push from behind, and some walk along right in the midst. Some leaders are gifted enough to be able to do all three, as needed. I do not advocate one over the other; I am advocating knowing yourself well enough to know how you can have the greatest impact on those you lead.

If you are a leader, when you turn to look, others should be following. Be someone others would want to follow; be yourself. Be the best you only you can be.

by Russ Sarratt

 

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