Traditionally, being a leader is considered as reaching the pinnacle of one’s career; for some reason, it is generally assumed that the position of a leader is what every average member of society strives for. However, even though so many people are actually willing to take the position of a leader, very few of the candidates realize what being a leader means and what responsibilities it handles to its owner. Although it is traditionally considered that a leader is the person who provides instructions to his/her subordinates and supervises important processes taking place in a specific organization or society, being a leader actually presupposes having a specific mindset, developing certain personal qualities, being able to set particular goals and strive to reach them, and, most importantly, expelling one’s communication skills to build strong relationships with the rest of the people based on a specific hierarchy.
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There are many ways to describe what being a leader is. The best way to do so is to list the basic qualities that a true leader must-have. As my personal experience has taught me, a true leader must have the skills of getting his/her point of view across (Williams & Miller, 2002), the ability to mobilize people and set goals and be able to hit them (Zenger, Folkman & Edinger, 2009), as well as the need to continuously improve his/her skills and be a lifelong learner (Batemen & Snell, 2011) are the basic requirements that must be met in order to become an efficient leader.
To be more particular about my experience as a leader and the important lessons that I have learned, four situations helped me realize what it takes to be a leader. The first situation concerned the issue of misunderstanding between an employee and a manager. One of the employees at the organization where I trained my leadership skills started claiming that his ideas were stolen by another member of the staff. The given experience has taught me that a true leader cannot only give credit to the people who deserve it but also to give chance to those who have made a mistake and are willing to make for it. Another situation concerned the information-sharing issue. Because of the employees’ unwillingness to share their ideas and information, which the incident described above spawned, the organization’s performance was reduced a few notches, which resulted in several major losses. Hence, the need to introduce the principles of teamwork arose: “Teams can also increase productivity, improve quality and reduce costs” (Bateman & Snell, 2011).
The third issue concerned the quality of the staff’s performance. Since the organization started hiring remote employees, it became quite hard for the latter to maintain high-quality standards with little to no examples to follow. To solve the given issue, the method of benchmarking suggested by Zenger, Folkman & Edinger (2009) was provided: “Benchmarking enables people to see a better way to approach a task” (Zenger, Folkman & Edinger, 2009, 6). Finally, it is necessary to mention the case when it was necessary to change the persuasive style to introduce the aforementioned idea of knowledge sharing to the employees. Previously, the charismatic style was used to persuade the employees. However, after the latter displayed an unwillingness to shift to a new principle of information management, it was required to correct the bad information that the skeptical employees were relying on (Williams & Miller, 2002, 9) as Williams and Miller put it.
The given experiences show that my key strength as a leader is the ability to find an approach towards any employee. Being a people person, I can stand in the shoes of my opponent and, therefore, not only anticipate his/her objections, but also to find a reasonable compromise and, therefore, solve the emerging issues fast and efficiently. However, it is also clear that there is still a long way for me to go to become an efficient leader. Perhaps, one of the key weaknesses that may stand in my way of becoming a successful leader concerns the team-building practices. At present, it is rather hard for me to figure out how to work on the employees’ commitment for a faster team-building process, which, as Heathfield (2009) points out, is crucial for efficient management. Therefore, to turn into a good leader and a professional manager, I will have to train my skills of working with not only individuals but also a group of people.
The definition of a leader, therefore, exceeds the concept of a person who gives orders and supervises organizational processes. A leader is a person who is able to communicate with people efficiently and shape their vision, as well as influence their organizational behavior, help them produce ideas and encourage their personal and professional development. The last, but not the least feature of a true leader to be mentioned is the ability to manage several issues simultaneously and be able to evaluate the progress of people and/or organization in question adequately, as well as set goals for the future. A leader is, therefore, a person who can set goals and come up with adequate means to achieve them by using his/her excellent communication skills and building trustworthy business relationships with his/her employees and partners.
Bateman, T. S. & Snell, S. A. (2011). Management: Leading and collaborating in the competitive world (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Heathfield, S. M. (2009). 12 tips for team building. Web.
Williams, G. A. & Miller, R. B. (2002). Change the way you persuade. Harvard Business Review, 80(5), 65-73.
Zenger, J., Folkman, J., & Edinger, S. K. (2009). Stretch goals. Leadership Excellence, 26(7), 6-7.