I have always subscribed to the notion that just because something seems simple, it does not necessarily mean that same thing is easy. Consequently, complexity is not necessarily synonymous with difficulty.
As a professional who works in the vast and open-ended sector of leadership, I believe most of the time I am living in a world dominated by the former category. Leadership is, by nature, a fickle and capricious animal. It is something that so many have made careers out of explaining; by selling their expertise on leadership, or by discovering specific skills a leader must possess and developing those skills in others.
If you search for ‘books on leadership’ on Amazon, over 20 pages of options appear featuring an entire range of sub-topics: religious leadership, corporate leadership, students, teachers, business people, etc. When I googled ‘leadership workshops,’ the same thing happened only far greater. I stopped counting the pages at 53 (and yes, I checked each time to make sure I was getting legitimate options).
So, it is obvious that ‘leadership’ as a skill is in high demand. It is highly researched, and is provided through wisdom and development in abundance.
But what is that we’re getting? What is it about this quality that makes it so desirable? Why are those anointed as experts in this field given such cultural value and importance over other traits? Most importantly, how do we know who is actually giving us the goods…
…My conclusion: Who knows?
There are so many styles, and so many different ways a person can evoke leadership in any given situation. In the past, I’ve began workshops by asking how many different leadership style tests participants have taken before, and if they remember what type, colour, number, or code they are? I’m an INFJ-21-Humor-Democratic-Type B-Coaching-People Leader (I think?)
I find these tests to be very helpful in the moment. They provide perspective, facilitate reflection, and give you insight into how and why you operate. However, once you’ve done a few and put the results side by side, it does start to seem a little silly to constantly be evaluating and labelling your own personality. It also seems unlikely that who we are as people can be summarized through a series of questions, and processed by a computer-generated algorithm. I mean, can how I decide to lead in a situation really be determined or influenced by how I answered “A)My desk is always neat, I hate clutter ‘or’ B)My desk is a mess, I love chaos.”
So how do we really know what type of leaders we are, and how do we tap into the intrinsic skills in our repertoire and develop the ones that we may be lacking? Can these traits make us good or bad at leadership? In short, what does being a leader actually mean?
Thankfully, I found a book that actually provides an answer to this question. 100%, no gimmicks, no word of a lie, an ANSWER…
Only cost me 2.99$ at a children’s book store. For your benefit, I’m going to provide the ENTIRE book right here. My comments in ( )
“Being a leader means taking charge. Being a leader means setting a good example.” (Ok, makes sense).
“When you help someone… you are being a good leader.” (Really? I do that)
“When you take chare… you are being a good leader.” (I can understand this)
“When you help others with a problem… you are being a good leader.” (Help, you say?)
“When you praise others… you are being a good leader.” (What? That’s easy)
“When you keep trying… you are being a good leader.” (Right, Don’t give up)
“When you give others a turn to lead… you are being a good leader.” (Mind…blown)
“It is important to be a good leader. How can you be a good leader?”
If you ask anyone in sales, communications, or advertising, they will undoubtedly tell you about the importance of simplifying your message. I don’t think there is any simpler way to describe what leadership is than this book has done. To me, it all comes down to being yourself and being a consistently good person. Sure, aspects of leadership like taking charge often require a level of subject competence to inspire others. However, my main ingredients for all of these acts are kindness and confidence. If you are confident in yourself, and you always keep the needs of others in mind, I believe that you already possess the most essential components of leadership. It’s that simple.
Next time, I’ll explain how that weird toy at the doctor’s office can help explain quantum string theory in less than 30 seconds.