Preparing for a role in leadership

Some people appear like they were been born with the qualities of a great leader. For most of us, how to be a leader is something that we have to develop and learn over time. But regardless of what type of individual you are, at some point in your career or personal life, you will need to lead and manage people.

“A leader shapes and shares a vision which gives point to the work of others.”

– Charles Handy (1992)

Anyone can call themselves a leader, but I tend to find the standards associated with taking on such a role are quite high. Team members have an expectation of what they need from their leader. Until we take on that role ourselves we tend to underestimate what it really takes to be a great leader.

As a planner by nature, in my personal time I like to lead hikes, excursions and group trips. I often find that friends of mine will rely on me to be the organiser because it is not one of their strengths and they often don’t enjoy that aspect. So of course I do not mind stepping in as I enjoy researching options, planning itineraries, providing locations to travel to, accommodation options etc. so that when it comes to the day of the trip our group can be left at ease to enjoy the trip ahead.

Leading a group, however, is not as straight forward as telling people what to do or passing on information. At times I go through periods of being frustrated when my emails or messages are not answered right away, when I can’t get the group to collectively decide on training or travel dates and when transport costs are taking time to be paid. It is difficult, it is stressful, there are moments where it is time consuming and it requires patience. But I also wouldn’t want it any other way, because it is necessary for the overall success of what you are trying to organise or do.

While I can make many assumptions on why others may not be getting back to me, leading and influencing outcomes is key to my role. Most importantly it is also imperative that I do not lose my head over silly little things. Everyone is different, and to work effectively as a team, I need to work effectively with all types of personalities to achieve the overall team results. And what is the point of creating bitter tension over something that is created for our team to relax and enjoy?

While researching what makes a great leader, I came across an article on Forbes that outlines 10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader. While reflecting on this list, there were three areas that are the cornerstone for my leadership:

1. Ability to Delegate – being able to share the workload with members of your team and trusting them to follow through on the task that you have provided them. While I enjoy working independently, I often find delegating saves me a lot of time and it helps me organise details much faster. And if I am pressured for time, I will put deadlines for members of my team to send back results so that they are aware of items that are urgent or I let them know when they can take more time.

2. Positive Attitude – Keeping your own mood in sync along with your team. If this involves providing occasional incentives or bonding time then isn’t it worth it for better results? Keeping a positive attitude is essential for me as a leader and my team. Even when I may be stressed I know it is important that the message I send to my team is a positive one. Most importantly I look to inspire and get the team excited for what is to come.

3. Communication – Keep it open at all times, and also be willing to accept feedback. I think my most important point on that list would be communication, because without communication, there is no direction, no vision, and no place for your team to move forward. And this also includes letting your team ask questions.

My main thrill of leading events is the outcomes our team achieves at the end. My team and I can reflect on a great experience, share the memories together, and if it is a fitness challenge we can share what we have achieved together. I hope the more opportunities that I have to lead others, the more I can grow to be a better leader, take on more responsibilities, and hopefully share my experiences so that others are likewise empowered to achieve their goals.

What have you learned so far from your role in leadership? What has inspired you in other leaders?