In today’s business world, a gap has widened between those who call themselves leaders and those who are leaders and try to cultivate leaders within their organization. Today, we are finding ourselves led by people who have given themselves the title of leader, but have done nothing to earn it.
These leaders may be managers of our teams and organizations. They may be our coworkers. The one thing they have in common is that they have not properly cultivated their own leadership and are therefore failing to cultivate leaders around them.
If you want to be a good leader, start with yourself. At one of the organizations I worked for, the entirety of the management team referred to themselves as leaders. However, there were very few of them who had earned that title. They exhibited few of the characteristics of a good leader, and did not attempt any personal leadership development.
One of the most effective ways to recognize your own leadership potential is to play to your strengths. It is not necessary for you to be the mythical “well-rounded leader”. In 2008, Gallup conducted research regarding what makes a good leader. What they found is that good leaders don’t need to maintain a wide range of traits and characteristics.
If you are a good communicator, you should invest time in perfecting your skills as a communicator. Are you a good organizer? How well do you know your strengths?
Take a Test
You can do what was required of me for my Leadership Development course in my Master’s of Business Administration program: Gallup has a strengths-based leadership test that identifies your strengths. Of course, this is according to the company’s research. As I took the test, it became very obvious that the results could change from week to week.
However, some of my strengths are obviously born of personality traits: ‘Strategic’ means that I carefully choose my words when I communicate.
Another strength, ‘Input’, pointed out that I can also use words to control situations to my advantage. As a leader, it would behoove me to focus on other aspects of this strength, such as my ability to absorb considerable information in a short amount of time and easily recall it.
You don’t have to take the test to recognize your strengths, but it helped me. It even helped me recognize that the position I previously held wasn’t working for my strengths. I had to look elsewhere.
Look Around You
Even if you are not a manager, you can cultivate leaders first by starting with yourself, and then by looking at the world around you. To whom to you gravitate at work? Can you recognize their leadership traits? Do they admit when they make mistakes and learn from them? Do they collaborate well?
If you tend to surround yourself with people who have the same strengths as you, it may be time to rethink that strategy. Leaders recognize that they do not have to be well-rounded individuals, and it is necessary to build relationships with people whose strengths complement their own.
Even if you are only “one of the masses,” you can still build yourself up as a leader by building up the leadership strengths of those around you. Part of true leadership is fostering leadership in others.
Managing Will Come Naturally
If you happen to be in a management position and want those you lead to truly follow you, keep one very important thing in mind: focusing on weaknesses will only alienate people. Instead of followers and fellow leaders, you will only cultivate employees.
Focusing on weaknesses, whether in yourself or in your employees, leads to our inner critic rearing his ugly head. Negativity of this type only stands to alienate the people around you, and when you are the manager, your employees will become disengaged.
The Ultimate Goal
When you lead your employees instead of just managing them, they are happier, less stressed, and even more productive. What else will they do? They will become leaders themselves, and they will inspire others to take up the mantle. This is the ultimate goal of every great leader.
How Do You Cultivate Leaders?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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