Leadership means different things to different people. Likewise, there are different approaches to leadership or styles of leadership. Regardless of what it means to an individual or the style of leadership a leader prefers, certain qualities are essential for the success of any leader.
These are the qualities you need to make you an effective leader:
- Ability to Listen: A leader must be able to not only speak eloquently but be able to use words to address the needs of his/her followers. Eloquence is useless if it doesn’t soothe, reprimand, and meet the emotional and psychological needs of the followers. As a leader, your words must always be targeted at jolting your followers to take needed action. To be able to know what your followers need, you must be a keen listener. People’s needs vary with situations and circumstances and being able to listen to your followers will equip you with real-time information about happenings around your organization/ community. Many leaders focus solely on being able to speak yet fail to develop their listening ability. Listening is as important as speaking if not more important for a leader. You have 1 mouth but 2 ears. There is a reason for that, don’t you think?
- Ability to Motivate: Leadership is about being the foreperson in a team. Encouraging and prodding them on a journey they need to embark upon but lack the willingness or ability to do so. It is about ensuring your followers do what needs to be done even when they do not want to. It is, about making people choose to be responsible over pleasure. It is about making people go the right way and not the path they would most likely galvanize towards, which most times is, the easier way. To do this, you must be able to inspire them, galvanize them, energize them, and move them. This is where your words come in handy. Without knowing what they need, your words will waste. Listen to know what they need, then use your words to address their needs. Motivation is about addressing the needs of your followers. Some require a verbal solution while some will require much more. This leads us to the next point.
- Ability to Model: words are powerful but in leadership, examples are the most powerful. A leader who gives quality instruction to fellow soldiers on how to fight on the battlefield is important but will never be as inspiring as the one who goes to battle with the people, and leads from the front! A leader must be willing to roll up his/her sleeves and get into the mud with the followers, Show them how to do it, give them out of their resources, and continuously mentor them. When you model what you want, you create a movement of potential leaders, not mere followers.
- Ability to learn: Knowledge is key to leadership. A leader is not going to have all the answers at all times but he or she is expected to know as much as possible about the roles or duties assigned. Knowledge is power, power is the ability to do something. To be able to lead, you need knowledge. You must be a student of the field, aspect, or area you are leading in. You must be willing to learn new things and sometimes unlearn what you have learnt. You are not expected to know everything but you must be willing to know more than enough. without which leadership cannot be effective until Knowledge gives credence to leadership. A leader must develop the followers. How do you develop them if you have nothing to teach them? It is the knowledge you have that empowers you to develop others. Knowledge is the power that enables you to develop your followers. Seek to always know. Don’t seek knowledge to show off, seek it so that you can build capacity. Yours and those of your followers. Knowledge is power and it gives power.
- Ability to see clearly: Vision is the ability to see with your physical eyes and the eyes of your mind or imagination. Without vision, there is no leadership. Leadership is a journey with a destination in mind. Without a destination, there is no journey. If a leader has no vision, he/she can not lead. A leader must have a clear destination that he intends to take the people. A leader must understand where the followers are, determine where they need to be, and then take them there. This is vision(The hallmark of leadership). Leadership is about taking people on a life-enriching journey. It is about seeing where they need to be and doing all that is needed to take them there.
- Ability to bend: Leaders lead, and others follow. After determining the destination, the next thing is to determine the direction to travel on the way to the desired destination. As a leader, you must understand that your chosen direction will have different landscapes. You will encounter valleys and hills, highlands and lowlands, dry lands, and maybe wetlands. Therefore a leader must have the quality of flexibility in his arsenal. He/She must be able to bend without bending, change strategy without changing the vision, and change direction without changing the destination. Leaders are like surfers riding the waves of the ocean. The goal is to reach the shores riding upright on the surfboard. To succeed, the leader must be able to twist, turn, dodge, and evade as the shape of the waves keeps changing. The surfers that make it to the shores upright are those that succeed in mastering the art and act of flexibility. They ride the storm as it comes and not as they wish.
These 6 abilities will stand you in good stead in your leadership journey.
Fatubaro Temitope is the founder of Gestalt Consult, a training institute situated in Lagos, Nigeria.