Empowerment: Leadership is Not Glamorous

29 Apr

(Part 3 of 3)

Leadership is not glamorous.  It is hard but rewarding work.  It cannot be done in a vacuum and it should not be done solely for personal gain.  Enabling others to act is not a separate leadership skill but must be done in tandem with the other practices of exemplary leaders.  You cannot enable others to act without providing them with a vision for their action.  And that vision needs to meet their needs, values and goals, as well as the values and goals of the organization, the team, or the project that you are leading. 
Working with others means that leadership will never progress exactly as you plan.  This does not negate the need for a plan.  You need an outline to follow so you can ensure you don’t get off-track. But you also have to be flexible because people do not progress at the same pace.  Some are ready for challenges, while others need to be coaxed.  Some are ready to learn to lead, while others are still learning the basics of being a good follower.  Exemplary leaders must have large doses of emotional and interpersonal savvy so that they can understand their followers (as individuals) and their team (as a whole). 

Leadership is necessary.  Organizations, families, and government all need strong leaders who are committed to change, have a plan for that change, but are also humble enough to surround themselves with strong advisors. Leadership needs to be taught on the job and we cannot wait until we are “great leaders” before passing on the skills to the next generation.  All leaders are in an ongoing process of developing and enhancing their skills.  But all leaders can begin to teach the skills they do possess. And much of this teaching will not take place in a formal classroom. Leaders lead by example. So the best way to learn how to lead is to spend time observing great leaders: watch them in action, read about them, ask “why”, and be prepared to make a plethora of mistakes along the way.  Leaders are not judged by the number of mistakes they make, but by the breadth and depth of positive change that they bring.  Leadership is not glamorous but it is necessary. It is more than a job title or a personality trait – it is a skill set and mindset that everyone is capable of enjoying. 

You never graduate from leadership learning.  It’s not glamorous.  It requires flexibility.  It is necessary.  And it’s never done. So settle in for an endurance event, not a sprint.  Trust me, it will be worth it.

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