I truly believe that good leadership involves taking into consideration the unique personalities and needs of those whom you are leading instead of just thinking of them as human tools to accomplish a task or subordinates to be ordered around, therefore it was a breath of fresh air to hear the same sentiments reiterated by Michael Charles, PMP (Project Management Professional) in his webinar: Pillars of Leadership and Growth hosted by the Project Management Institute’s Government Community of Practice.

Michael turned the popular notion of leadership on its head by teaching us that leadership is not something that certain people are born with but effective leadership can indeed be learned. This is great news! It means that you could learn how to be an influential leader instead of sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the fact that you weren’t born with the right stuff. Leadership is in fact a predictable skill that could be taught and learned. Actually, while many people are born with special God-given talents, even these people need to commit themselves to learning and developing positive leadership skills.

You might be wondering exactly what is leadership? Well, let’s start with what it is not. Leadership is not your position. Don’t get caught up in your job title – it doesn’t make you a leader. Initially, your position may allow you to have influence, but this is a superficial, temporary influence that will soon fade away unless you exercise real leadership. Nor is leadership power or stature – so just because you have many employees who report to you and you give them orders does not mean you are a real leader. Read these words carefully – being a leader means having influence. Yes! Influence.

Now that we know what leadership is, let’s explore the concept of influence. Influence is not about your own personal charisma, intelligence or ability to manipulate others. No! Influence is other-centred, focusing on those on your team, not self-centred, focusing on yourself. Influence is caring about the people you lead. Learning about them as individuals and what they need to accomplish their roles and then helping them to get the resources they need to be effective team members. As leader, your job is to nurture and support team members, not just dictate orders to them and expect them to comply. This is real leadership – leadership that teaches the team how to succeed, enlightens them as to why they should succeed, inspires them so they want to succeed and provides the support and resources for them to actually succeed. You add value to people and in turn add value to the team, which in turn adds value to you as a leader and allows the team to get the most value out of its work and accomplish its goals.

What does leadership involve? Well, it involves leadership of self, leadership of others and leadership of leaders. It is very important to examine the idea of “what is a leader?” because a misunderstanding about this has hurt organizations who did not understand the concept. Often, those promoted to leadership positions within organizations are chosen for their expertise in a particular area and not for their leadership qualities; therefore as Michael puts it,”You lose a good technician and gain a bad manager.”

Being an effective leader involves changing your mindset from “me” to “them.” As Michael puts it, you need to “start learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

So whether you have a senior position in an organization, you’re leading a volunteer group or working on a specific project as a project manager, remember to build real, lasting influence by getting to know your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and unique requirements for their roles and taking an active part in caring about them and supporting them. You will have a stronger, more effective and satisfied team and you will be showing true leadership.

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