Leaders are the same as everyone else–they make mistakes, stray from the path and compromise their effectiveness because of ego, pride, or insecurity.
Having served as a leadership coach for over three decades now, I’ve often seen great men and women not get the respect they deserve as a leader because they don’t understand the reality of their own leadership. Based on their experiences, I have collected some harsh truths that every leader must face before they can achieve greatness.
1. A title doesn’t make you a leader.
When you attain a leadership title, it simply gives you the opportunity to become a leader, so don’t mistake it for validation that you’ve already arrived. All a title does is buy you time–time to earn influence or to lose it, to get the job done or to fall short. Understand that titles are not the end but the beginning of leadership.
2. Leaders don’t come with followers.
As a leader, you don’t automatically have followers, only subordinates. It’s your behavior as a leader that determines whether or not those subordinates ever turn into followers. This is an especially harsh truth, but it’s also an important one.
3. Leadership isn’t about position.
For any leader to be effective, they must learn how to perform and get results. Leadership is not about your position but your performance–whatever your role. This small distinction is critical to your success as a leader.
4. Competence isn’t enough.
It’s foolish to think that competence alone can make you a great leader–or a leader at all. Competence is a requirement, but you also need to master a set of key leadership skills–vision, empowerment and communication–to become a leader others admire and respect.
5. Just because you inherited it, that doesn’t mean you earned it.
Leadership is not genetic. If you inherit a title, it’s up to you to earn the position. That may mean working even harder than you’d have to otherwise. Set your privilege aside and focus on what you can do for your team.
6. Authority doesn’t make you a leader.
Many positions involve some degree of authority–police officer, judge, teacher, coach, parent. But even for people in those positions, leadership is not about authority or power. It is instead cultivated through character, competence, consistency and compassion–traits that allow you to earn influence. And influence, not authority, is the foundation of successful leadership.
The bottom line is this: In order to become the kind of leader you aspire to be, you need to first understand and learn to live with some harsh truths. Once you make them part of your reality, you’ll be on the path to becoming a better leader.
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