There is no single ‘correct’ definition of good leadership. In my experience, good leadership comes in whatever form the individual acting the part of the leader decides to take (consciously or unconsciously.) Here are some things to consider to build leadership skills.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
The most important element that leadership begins (and ends) with is “awareness.”
Awareness of self and awareness of others is important to build leadership skills.
Whether you are the CEO of the most powerful company in the world or you are an individual contributor starting your first job out of college, you can lead…and it all starts with knowing who you are.
Sounds simple, right? It isn’t.
You can work on cultivating greater awareness for your entire career and beyond, and still know you have progress to make. That’s OK…it is part of being human.
What’s not OK? Refusing to build that awareness.
Why do so many shy away from taking this journey? Because it is humbling, requires patience, and requires dealing with uncomfortable and scary emotions. You have to confront your true self, warts and all, and then sort through the things you like and don’t like. How do you show up when you’re at your best? At your worst? How will you know when you’re one or the other?
Take a moment to reflect on the people you’ve worked with, worked for, or who have worked for you. It’s a rich tapestry of behavior and personality types, right?
Think about those who have made an impact on you…the good and the bad. (Hopefully more of the former, but I’d argue that the latter experiences hold learnings for us i.e. learning on how not to be is useful,)
I strongly suspect the leaders and mentors you’ve interacted with were all different from one another. Meaning they showed up differently in the leadership style.
And that’s great news, because anyone can take the package of styles and strengths they are working with and transform it to show up as “good leadership.” The key – understanding what you have to work with and how best to apply it.
The DISC Assessment is a fantastic tool to begin this process. I would argue it should be the equivalent of ‘required reading’ for anyone coming out of school…in fact I’d go so far as to say they should take it while they are still in school. (I recently administered one to my then 10-year old daughter. Shocker: she’s my behavioral twin.)
This assessment allows you to gain insights into your behavioral patterns, both natural and adapted (the latter indicating your styles in changing environments). It allows you to understand how you would like people to communicate with you, and more importantly, how you can best communicate with others. And the real gold mine is when you take it with others whom you have a relationship with, it allows you to understand how and how not to communicate with them.
Join our Community. We focus on helping build leadership skills. All Members will get the chance to take a DISC Assessment and learn more about their styles.
How does that awareness (of self and others) translate into good leadership?
If you can effectively communicate with people in a way they understand and in a way that builds trust, you’ve solved the riddle.
While it sounds simple, it is far from easy. There are many ways to build trust, though none of them are quick and none of them are easy to maintain.
For me, here is what trust boils down to:
- Are you being authentic and honest when you communicate with me? This can be in a 1:1 or 1:many form. Do you use clear language and can you find some way to relate to me?
- Are you consistent and do you try your hardest to do what you say you are going to do? And if you couldn’t live up to that, do you try to dodge it or do you take ownership?
- Are you painting a clear and better picture of the future, one that I can connect with deeply and motivate myself around?
- Do you care about me? This shows up differently depending on your own style, but it becomes clear quickly whether or not you REALLY care about me. That doesn’t mean you have to coddle or overindulge me, it just means you see me and you are going to try to help me. That you care about the relationship and know how to demonstrate it in a way that I can appreciate.
I share my perspective only so you know what it means to me. It may look different to you. The lesson here is that to be an effective leader and build leadership skills, you have to keep working on building and strengthening trust with others. And that begins with finding awareness.
Know thyself…it is no more simply stated than that.