What does it mean to be a leader? How do you become one? And why is it needed? Many think of leaders as those who are at the top of a hierarchy, who have a certain level of expertise, status, or age, or who have the power to make decisions. Leadership doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with any of that. It can, but it’s not a requirement at all. Leaders can be at the bottom of a hierarchy, can lack any kind of expertise and status, be young, and may not have the power to make decisions.
Forbes’ writer Kevin Kruse defines leadership as:
A process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.
According to this definition, leadership is about empowering others with the aim of reaching a bigger goal. The power of leaders is not authoritarian or hierarchical, it’s social. Leaders are leaders because they inspire others to do their best for the sake of a grander vision.
As you can see, leadership has nothing to do with personality traits or position. It’s about empowering others. That means everyone can learn to become a leader. Let’s look at how you can gain kick-ass leadership skills and why it’s important that you do.
How to Become a Leader
What makes someone inspirational, and what makes people follow them? We’ve probably all known someone who was in a position of authority, but definitely didn’t act as a leader. People who are in the position to lead often end up managing instead. It’s easy to fall for this trap. Here are seven ways to avoid making that mistake:
- Trust the people you lead: Micromanaging and controlling those you’re supposed to lead is not inspirational or empowering. It’s suffocating and imprisoning. So trust them to do their best and do what you’ve asked them. Doubt and mistrust can destroy any relationship.
- Be approachable: Hierarchies hinder information flow and creative back-and-forth. Especially, if you are a project lead you should try to be as approachable as possible by inviting your team members to speak with you, actively seeking their opinion and thoughts, and getting to know them on a personal level.
- Interact on eye level: Being a leader is all about respecting, not controlling others. This requires meeting the people you lead on eye level. Respect their viewpoints, be kind to them, and never try to manipulate them. Again: Hierarchy kills team spirit.
- Spread positivity and encouragement: If the leader loses hope, everyone does. Therefore, it’s the task of the leader to see the opportunity in the challenges and energize the team. Of course, spreading hope where there is none, is also meaningless, but there is always a learning and an opportunity for growth in every situation. As the leader, guide the focus there.
- Be open and honest: Nothing inspires people as much as a leader who dares to be vulnerable. If you’re not honest with those you lead, they are not going to be honest with you. It builds trust to be open and honest.
- Listen and communicate well: Carefully craft your communication and interaction with those you lead. Listen as much as you speak, if not more. If you don’t understand those you seek to lead, connecting with them will be next to impossible.
- Follow to lead: Be inspired by those you follow. Nothing shows as much respect and gratitude as seeing the quality in those you lead and learn from them. Listen to them, follow their needs and ideas, and be inclusive.
Why Leadership is Important
More is achieved and big challenges are solved if many people connect around one it, but in order to achieve that a leader with a clear vision is needed. Wonders can truly be achieved if leaders inspire the right people to connect with a great vision.
At Moonshot Pirates everyone knows we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the help of each other, without the support of our mentors, and without the trust of our pirates. Leaders, visionaries, and changemakers see the bigger picture and understand the importance of collaboration on eye-level and trust-based teamwork.
It takes leadership to reach big goals, so if you have a big vision for your life and the world, find the leader within you and hone those qualities. It takes time to evolve into a leader. You need to practice, be consistent, and not give up. Leadership is something that develops over time by being respectful to those you interact with, by showing up and encouraging others, and by doing small things and caring for others. You can also check out our article about teamwork to find more useful tips.
Listen to Simon Sinek, a true leader of our time, sharing his thoughts about the topic for more insight on how to develop leadership skills. And then simply start acting like one!