Monday, August 08, 2016

The path to be a great leader

Being a leader is never a clear path. I would not say that I am a great accomplished leader nor I would not say that I have not lead either. What I am writing here are my observation and studies on the few leaders I've met, talked to or even learned from throughout my time on this planet. I have to say there are many types of leaders out there that have different traits that are either born with or learned the hard way.

I have often heard people asking this question (I have to admit that I too asked this question when I was leading my team back then), "What does it takes to be a good leader?". This is a very subjective question as it really depends on who you are leading and what is your job scope. 

What I have realised is that leaders generally scale down to three types, either you are an effective leader, a charismatic leader or you are both. 

From my observation, an effective leader is someone who will lead their team to achieve their goal in a systematically way. They are usually a "Follow-the-system" no nonsense kind of person. They will ensure that the job is done in their way, putting aside all the small pep talks or in other words, bullshit talks or meetings. These leaders get the job done. Thats it! Some would compare them slightly like a dictator. They are usually effective when there is a crisis or when things are in chaos.

For a charismatic leader, they are the ones that will talk, inspire and at times charm the team to work for them without whipping them. These leaders are often seen as a likable figure. They will at times try to use the team's strength and encourage discovery. They are the ones who will use pep talks or they are the ones who will take you out for a drink to motivate you and talk to you to find ways to inspire you to go beyond.

Hence, as mentioned the ones that can combine both traits is not something you can get overnight or easily obtained. A leader with a good balance of both usually takes a while to master. Experience and character does play a huge role on how you find that balance too. 

There are several other points that I have learned from the various leaders that I used to talked to or interviewed back in my radio and BNI days, (these are actual points stated by the leaders) here they are:

  1. Do not take longer than 5 minutes to make a decision. Once a decision is made, if it is a wrong or bad decision, never regret it but instead, learn from it. 
  2. A good leader have to be fair and transparent. This is usually one of the toughest aspect as this is one area where your every decision may look unfair to someone. So sometimes a decision made have to be thought through properly and objectively and not emotionally. A decision made have to be clear as to why it is being made. No point hiding or twisting certain facts.
  3. A good leader eliminates office politics. Office politics are usually the ones that kills an organisation. Discourage gossips. If there is an issue, bring together the parties involved and solve in face-to-face in a professional and civilized manner
  4. In relation to point number 2 and 3, a leader does not takes side and always listen to the stories of both parties before making a judgement. 
  5. A leader leads, a manage manages. There is usually a difference. One example, a good sales person does not necessary make a good sales manager.
  6. Learn to empower your team or your staffs. Trust in their ability and knowledge. Let them take charge on smaller decisions. Entrust them with some tasks, delegate the job. 
  7. A good leader helps the team to grow in knowledge and skills. If an staff or team are not able to perform a certain task given, find out why and guide them either via education or reassigning them to a task they are good at.
  8. As a leader, you may not know everything and sometimes it is good to ask for help from your team or others. 
  9. Keep instructions clear, straight forward and simple. You don't want your team to run around doing things that may not be productive just because you didn't make your instructions clear. A simple clear straight forward instructions gets the task done fast.  
  10. A leader always reads and try to upgrade their skills
  11. A leader should be generous in educating others and imparting knowledge and experience
  12. A leader is just a team member with extra responsibilities. They are not more superior or more powerful, just more responsibilities. 
  13. A leader is not a position where everyone will like you. There are definitely situations that you will be hated due to a decision you make but it is part and parcel of the job.
  14. The higher you go, the lonelier you get
  15. A leader dont have to reinvent the wheel, just make it better. Sometimes a working system does not need to be revamped, just improved. 
  16. A good leader leads by example, practice what they preach
  17. Lives up to their promises. Do not promise if you know you can't fulfill them. 
  18. Its always the team and not you. 
  19. A leader don't mind going the extra mile for the team. BUT do not sacrifice yourself! 
  20. Admits and owns up to their mistakes
  21. and finally... a leader must be themselves. Be quirky, be funny, be original... be yourself! 
Being a leader is never easy but if you know how do to it, the feeling of seeing your team or organisation succeed and you sitting there as their leader, knowing that you lead them there is such a satisfying feeling. I myself am still learning the traits and I hope one day I will be able to be standing along with those that taught me. And perhaps one day, I would be able to help others too...

To all the leaders that I have the privilege to chat with, thank you!

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."  
-John Quincy Adams

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