Erase from your mind any traces of the myth that leaders are born, not made. Instead, realize that the degree to which you lead your organization or team to success lies in your hands. Your ability to lead both yourself and others will enhance the quality of your work as well as your life. The quality of your leadership not only determines your future, it determines the future of your organization and the lives of all those who follow you.
In any discussions of leadership, we inevitably find ourselves thinking in terms of formal leadership. We tend to think of leadership in terms of rank or position. However, formal leadership is the outgrowth of your ability to master the art of self-leadership; it is indeed, the ability to establish a specific direction for your own life and to proceed in that direction with the self-confidence that comes only to one who knows where he or she is going. Becoming a leader means becoming you. It is that simple and that difficult. It begins with figuring out who you are and what gives your life value and meaning. It means focusing on doing the right things and understanding who you are, who you want to become, what skills you want to develop, and what you want to accomplish beyond where you are today. When you identify your goals and values on a personal level, they are genuine and authentic. When you identify leadership on a personal level, you develop the authenticity required to become a leader of an organization. According to Winston Churchill, “The key to leadership is sincerity. Before he can inspire with emotion, he must be swayed by it himself. Before he can move their tears, his own must flow. To convince them, he must himself believe.” The leadership of others begins with the leadership of self. Until you identify leadership on a personal level, you can never truly become an effective leader of an organization.
Realizing the vision involves a shared commitment and responsibility throughout the organization. This encompasses an ability to influence others to become committed to new directions and the ability to lead people to higher levels of performance. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing today’s leaders. As we continue to shift our emphasis away from the traditional role of managing and controlling, we need to improve our understanding of human behavior and how to bring out the best in people.
For many leaders, this means change. Regardless of external circumstances, rank, or previous experience you can improve your leadership skills. Leadership qualities stem from internal attitudes and learned skills, not outside situations. Effective leadership consists of more than just an intellectual understanding of leadership characteristics. The characteristics and skills must be incorporated into your style. They must be consistent with your beliefs and values, and part of your actions and decisions. Leaders inspire others, improve outcomes, bring out the best in people, make mistakes, and continuously learn and improve. Your success as a leader depends on your ability to influence behavior and align your resources in the direction that will ensure continued success.