“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”.
What could Shakespeare, as a poet and actor, possibly have known about leadership? After all, he was “only” the greatest writer in English language of all times, a man who made history with his dramas and plays, many of which still today serve and entertain mankind in many parts of the world. If he sat down with me on my sofa right now, I would definitely be interested in hearing his life story – but, it is too late, because he passed away almost 400 years ago. And still, the memory of him is with us, because he was a leader of his own kind – someone, who managed to make history through his original and tireless work.
Leadership, as any other activity, is continuous and tireless work. Anyone with leadership experience knows this. Not only do you have to take care of, and nurture, yourself, but also your team. Leadership requires a lot, and not many people dare to accept a leadership role – due to the fact that leadership can be very demanding. For example in Finland, most people prefer specialist roles rather than taking upon them the “burden” of being a leader. Why? Well, the reasons could be many, including the fact that at least in Finland; a leader does not always get paid much better than an average employee. This, of course, depends upon the company, and the leadership role in question.
1. Emotional Stability, and Maturity
As a leader, you need to be emotionally stable. Ok, leaders can and should have feelings too – but as a leader, you need to be aware of the responsibility you have, and act accordingly. Emotional stability and maturity is not always equal to the age of the person – this of course depends upon the type of leadership role. Although sometimes, even very young people are capable of taking very heavy responsibilities. It all depends upon circumstances, and the leadership role in question. Personally I led my first team at the age of 25. In some cultures, even royalties and kings can be even younger. Any leader can experience a private (or professional) crisis, which is why leaders should be taken care of very well too.
2. A Willingness to Lead.
Leaders are born, natural, and developed. Some people just have more “in-born” leadership qualities, such as great social and people skills. We all know that good leaders need to have good people skills – and if not, these have to be developed. Some people are more eager and willing to lead than others – so why not give the willing ones the chance? There is no way of forcing those who are not willing, and at the same time you need to evaluate why a specific person wants to take upon them an extra amount of responsibility and lead, in addition to themselves, others too. It is easier to train willing leaders than forcing employees into leadership roles who clearly do not want it in the first place.
3. A Willingness To Serve, and To Help Others.
A leader´s role is manyfold, and there are many kinds of expectations in regard with leaders. A leader needs to be supportive, helpful, a good listener, a teacher, empathic or at least sympathetic, and in addition to all the soft skills needed, a leader also needs to be capable of setting boundaries, being determined, treat every employee equally – and these people skills, most often, in addition to all technical skills required. A leader should never behave poorly. The requirements are strict, although we all are human.
A leader needs to be flexible. Very often, leadership roles require various kinds of expansive activities. A leader needs to be prepared for unplanned activities. As much as we would like them to, things do not often go as planned. This, of course, depends upon the type of industry and business activity, but all industries require an amount of flexibility. As a leader you also have to realize, and accept, that very often your staff does have more expertise than you. A leader is not always the smartest one – but rather the one leading a team of highly qualified professionals.
“You are water; water is you. Think about the mysterious magical nature of this liquid energy that we take for granted. Try to squeeze it, and it eludes us; relax our hands into it, and we experience it readily. If it stays stationary, it will become stagnant; if it is allowed to flow, it will stay pure. It does not seek the high spots to be above it all, but settles for the lowest places. It gathers into rivers, lakes, and streams; courses to the sea; and then evaporates to fall again as rain. It maps out nothing and it plays no favorites: It doesn’t intend to provide sustenance to the animals and plants. It has no plans to irrigate the fields; to slake our thirst; or to provide the opportunity to swim, sail, ski, and scuba dive. These are some of the benefits that come naturally from water simply doing what it does and being what it is”. (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer).
Leadership is a responsible activity, and should not be taken light-heartedly. This does not mean that you have to be dead-serious – on the contrary! Leadership requires a lot, especially having good people and self-management skills. A good sense of humor is not of harm either.