Follow the Leader

Let's begin with the idea that there are inherent leadership qualities in each one of us. Whatever role we may be in, there is always a need to exercise these but the important point is, how do we refine these qualities into skills, and further into a style! What does a leadership style look like? Is there a perfect, an ideal style?

A very basic understanding of Who is a leader becomes the starting point of this discussion. A person who is in charge of taking a team towards the achievement of a common and collective goal is a leader.

Many of us as children played games like Follow the Leader, Simon Says and the Queen of Sheba; we played these simple and innocent games without much thought. Did we ever wonder why we were following a leader, doing things at his behest, without so much as questioning the nature of the command! And what if we were following a leader who himself was lost!!

In today's day of professionalism, what purpose do such games serve? Why should we follow a leader blindly?

Many a time, we find ourselves in leadership roles but we have no followers! How then do we lead if people don't follow?

Time to reflect: Are people born leaders? What are the qualities one must have to be a leader? How can one be an effective leader?

They say, a leader must share vision, lead change, empower and inspire people! This is quite an ask of an ordinary human being. The question is how can such expectations be simplified and made doable in one's day to day life?

Daniel Goleman, an internationally acclaimed psychologist, Science journalist and author identified 6 leadership styles: Authoritative, Commanding, Affiliative, Pacesetting, Democratic and Coaching. One would wonder which the ideal style is. Well not any of the styles, alone stand out as perfect. A true leader must choose different aspects from the 6 different styles at different points in time. A leader is effective when his style is adaptive. The situation at hand, the team dynamics largely determine the style most suitable.
We rise by lifting others ? Robert Ingersoll
This is all the more for leaders. The true leader will nudge people out of their comfort zone to bring out the best in them and in the bargain, bring out the best in the organization collectively. He must insist on excellence and never settle for second best.

A Leadership style doesn't just "happen." It needs to be carefully designed and fine-tuned by you.

The choices, after all, are yours:
Whether you choose
  • to respond to situations or react
  • to have a fixed or growth mindset
  • to be positive minded or cynical and over critical
  • to carry baggage and bias or clear the clutter
  • to be decisive or to procrastinate
  • to have courage or insecurity and fear
Just remember that every situation provides a new choice, an opportunity to adapt and do things differently, even better than before.

A leader must bear in mind the following:
  • You can't lead where you won't go: It is all very well to have the vision, which translates into the mission, set a direction and then let the team walk ahead whilst the leader watches the progress. But it is very important for the leader to be willing to walk the way alongside the team. He must be confident and passionate about the journey towards achievement.
  • Leaders must be perpetual learners to bring about a change in others: It all begins with self-learning; only when a leader continues to learn, does he reflect, grow, evolve, change, adapt and can effect a change in others too.
  • Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference: while there are several ways to look at one's attitude, a simple mantra works wonders to keep strong a positive attitude. The want to do vs have to do attitude must consciously be thought about one gains in energy and the other drains energy. If we consciously change the have to do attitude to want to do, we will experience a sea change in our sense of well-being.
  • The growth and fixed mindsets are equally important for a leader to differentiate between; It takes all kinds to make the team and the leader must encourage people to adopt a growth mindset. There will always be some team members who are persistently trying to create situations to rile up the boss; at such times and more, the leader must be able to identify the danger of reaction vs the wisdom of response. Bob Proctor says that when you react you are giving away your power. When you respond, you are staying in control of yourself. And in the same context, very beautifully put by Dalai Lama, Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace rings so true.
  • One must have a specific purpose in life not the larger purpose of LIFE itself but the simple, everyday purposes that can be accomplished and give a sense of fulfilment at the end of the day. The focus on these smaller purposes make the larger.
  • The art of communication is the language of leadership: clear, articulate, transparent communication where there is openness and mutual respect. The language one speaks is a clear indicator of how one sees oneself. Active listening skills are integral to a good communication style. Keep it simple is the simplest and most effective Mantra to align with people and build trust.
Leadership is all about designing, adjusting and adapting. When people begin to interact genuinely, they're open to new ideas and each other's influence. The leader sets the tone and culture for this. He is instrumental in facilitating the pieces of the puzzle fitting in, keeping the synergy of the team alive and the dynamics of his team positive.
The leader then shares the vision, leads change, empowers and inspires people.

Image source-freepik

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Radhika Sinha
Principal, Aditya Birla World Academy

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