Are you ready to be a leader?

Before we look at the initial answer, if you’ve never been put into a position of leadership the answer will most likely be no! Just like delivering training, the first time—no one is ready, no one is prepared. You may have been ‘tapped’ but the chances are you probably just stepped in to get something done or thought you could do it better.

At the very least that’s a start. But don’t worry, no one is truly qualified to lead. That’s okay, neither are most business owners. What’s worse is that nowadays there seems to be this misconception that leadership is management and vice versa.

However leadership and management are two separate skills . . . Or talents that often need to be made use of by the same person, but just because you can do one doesn’t mean that you’re both. I’ve seen too many examples that prove me right.

To expand Leadership is composed of the ‘soft skills‘, the ability to inspire, and motivate. The ability to make hard decisions, but make sure everyone understands why. The ability to find the best compromise even if it means no one is happy. Not to mention courage; to stand up for your staff, to be their shield and to raise them when they need and deserve it. A leader cultivates trust through honesty and integrity. A leader is someone who people willingly follow, but not follow blindly.

Management is about the ‘hard key performance indicators’, to make sure things get done. Ensure correct use of resources, the counseling, coaching, training and development of staff, Putting action points into place … getting it done, on time, correctly and safely. et cetera!

This is my perspective! the amount of times I’ve heard people say they are the same astounds me, albeit from facilitators, coaches, and people who ‘develop’ the skills. People who should know better. Needless to say I do not subscribe to their websites! You may choose not to subscribe to mine!

Lets move on!

Regardless of what or how, like it or not, when the time comes there are certain prerequisites that people need to have before they can take on or be thrust into a position of leadership.

Much can be said about the demands, the types or the qualities of leadership themselves . . . but that’s another topic of discussion. What I’m going to discuss here are what I call the 3 non-negotiables that a leader must have, before you can truly call yourself a ‘leader’

As mentioned there are too many people who get leadership and management confused.

To prove my point I think back to a time around the end of 2006.

I remember the first time that one of the senior management came up to me and said, “This year, we’re gonna put you in charge of a team of five people. You’ll have to ‘look after these guys’ but what we really want you to do is to make your guys the best crew you can, and that means you’re gonna have to lead them.”

My first reaction was one of shock—‘had I just finally taken a step up in the food chain?’ Then I asked the question “Am I actually going to have the authority I need to make use of when I need it?”

The answer was a firm but expected, ‘No!’

This was quickly followed up with a quick hint of what my job was really going to be, now that I wasn’t ‘New’ anymore. “You’re not going to have the rank—but you’re gonna have to make these guys, want to work for you.”

I had just been given the quickest job brief in history. The people that I was now leading were my peers! If I lost them, I was done! If I failed there was no second chance.

The self-doubt and the uncertainty was the biggest mental obstacle I ever had to come across. But when opportunities like this come up you can’t let them go—you need to take them. Failure meant my name and reputation were finished.

I didn’t know it at the time, but aside from the doubt, I had the three things that I needed to lead. I just needed to make use of one and hold on to the other two! Let me talk about these three things.

The Big 3

For young leaders, who want more than just public speaking, motivational activities, or trust exercises, I’m going to tell you about these 3 things that will confirm for you, your ability to take on a leadership role. Here they are.

  1. Belief—there has to be a vision or a mission that you believe in, something that you are working toward. The vision itself doesn’t have to be yours, but it must be something that you can buy into. If you have the belief then you have the root source of your motivation.
  2. An Audience. This is non-negotiable. People who lead without an audience are visionaries! [Not a bad thing, but not what we’re talking about  here] As a junior leader, you may not actually have a team underneath you. You may occupy a position in isolation—but that doesn’t mean that your belief is wasted. You could also be a part of a team, and the people around you actually are your audience. Your audience also isn’t restricted to your immediate circle. Your audience is also made up of the people above and below you (organizationally), so as a potential leader you actually are in a position to set the example, and your belief combined with your direct and indirect audience puts you in a position to create a powerful influential force within your audience.
  3. Respect of your audience. Be careful to make the distinction between being respected and liked. As a leader—be prepared to accept that you may not actually be liked by your audience. You’ll realize that being liked is a really nice thing to have, but it’s not essential. In fact some of the best leaders that I’ve worked for and with, I really truly didn’t like them! But I can absolutely say that I respected them, and in almost all cases trusted them. They made rational decisions, for justifiable reasons and what’s more they were honest, and transparent which cultivated that trust.

I’ve also seen numerous leaders (by position) who’ve had belief, a dedicated audience, but lacked the respect they needed to be effective. In those cases, things will (and did) almost always stall, and the entire team became ineffective.

I’ve also seen ‘leaders’ who have the audience and the respect, but lack of belief in the job also caused them and the team to fall down. Teams struggle to follow a leader who lacks belief! These situation typically show after a leader has been broken mentally or emotionally.

The Checklist

So if you’re finding yourself in a position where you’re now required to take the lead but you’re not quite sure if you have what you think you need to do the job, just ask the following questions.

  1. Do you believe in what you’re doing?
  2. Do you have people to lead?
  3. Do you have their respect?

If you have these three things, you’ll figure out the rest as you go and believe me when I say that. I’ve had the grace to attend a number of ‘leadership’ or ‘management’ training sessions and based on my experience they come up very short and wanting. (Personal experience and bias be damned)

As long as you have these three fundamentals, you’ve got the foundations to be a leader. You’ll learn … as well as teach along the way.

You got this!

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1 thought on “Are you ready to be a leader?

  1. Hello Richard, really important topic. Very informative, and insightful article. Thank you.

    I completely agree with you on the differences noted between leadership and management.

    ‘Belief’ is the hardest part. The other two can be easily achieved by someone who knows the art of storytelling with empathy.

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