It is often said that great leaders are made but it can also be said that these same leaders are sometimes lost. The ability to lead is different for each person and most will find that to be effective in leadership they must define for themselves who they are in this position.
Defining who you are as a leader is important before you can lead other people. Many have found that trying to be the type of leader that others want them to be may not fit with their personal integrity. It is up to every leader to define exactly what this means.
In many organizations leaders are chosen not on their abilities but on the need of the organization. Sometimes an individual is put into a leadership position unexpectedly. As an example, recently a leader in a nonprofit organization stepped down after ten years in the same position. This should have been a very important transition for her but instead, it was met with bittersweet memories. The problem was that she was thrust into a leadership position after the founder of the organization died. She had been there the longest and was asked to take the position. Although she didn’t feel ready, she was flattered and took it. As soon as she took the position she went back to school and achieved a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. She thought this would be enough but what she wasn’t prepared to do was work with some of the volunteers in the organization who had their own agendas. Sadly, she started off on the wrong foot with them by not being a confident leader. Although she was able to make some changes in the organization, she wasn’t able to bring it to where she would have liked to see it go. What she learned from this is that she had to pull her leadership from within herself instead of trying to please the other people who expected her to be like the founder. This is something that effective leaders find out.
Education can only give you theories and ideas; it cannot actually show you how to lead.
Most leaders have had life experience that brings them to a certain philosophy of life and this philosophy usually comes with them into their leadership position. They learn how to treat people well, and they learn how to move people forward when they can get their cooperation. They also have a strong vision for their own lives and where they want it to go. When this vision matches with the organization’s mission or at least complements it, the individual is able to lead effectively. Leaders who rely on that intrinsic knowing of what to do in any situation seem to be able to strike a balance between what they expect from employees and what they expect from themselves. When this comes together for them in the workplace, it allows them to develop other leaders.
In the future, we are going to need more leaders to fall back on this intrinsic knowledge in hard times. They will be the ones to create innovative ways for organizations to move forward.