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How to be a good leader

How to be a good leader

Leadership & Management

Sridhar Narayanaswamy

Sridhar Narayanaswamy

8 Aug 2016, 09:00 — 6 min read

We hear, read and think a lot about leadership and being a leader. There is tons of material teaching and preaching about leadership. Can one become a leader merely by reading them? 

Who is a leader? Of all that I have read, the following definition, I felt, is the most apt one:

“Leadership means the courage to take decisions and knowing how to manage the risks associated with a decision.”

Becoming a leader is not a promotion that one gets simply due to his/her seniority.  It is much more than that. 

Born or made?
Often we hear the statement, “Leaders are born, not made”. I beg to differ. Anyone can become a leader by continual work, study, training and learning about leadership skills and applying them on the job. If someone is considered as a born leader, I would say it is more due to the environment in which they grew up. However, even for such a ‘born leader’ continual improvement in leadership skills is a must. 
If one wishes to be a leader, he/she must have an honest understanding about themselves, their capabilities, knowledge and limitations. 

 

Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.


Who determines a leader?
It is very true that it is the not the leader or anyone else who determines if a leader is successful or not, but the followers. A leader is one who must inspire confidence in their team and motivate them to reach higher levels of performance. Being a leader is not a self-proclamation but a position that should be acceptable to the team the person is leading.

 

A leader must know his/her team well, must have a good understanding of human nature and must have the ability to adopt different approaches depending on the team members. An all too soft approach or a harsh unbending attitude will never help.

 

Boss or leader?
A position as a manager in a department gives someone the authority to get done the tasks and objectives in the organisation. However, it does not make him/her a leader. He/she is merely a boss. Leadership differs in that it makes the followers want to achieve high goals. A leader must be able to influence their team to believe in what they are doing, thus motivating to achieve higher goals and objectives. This is leadership.

 

Communication skills
One of the important skills that a leader therefore must possess is good communication. 
A leader leads through two-way communication. Much of it being non-verbal. Relationships are either built or broken between a leader and the followers by ‘what’ is communicated and ‘how’ it is communicated.

 

Leads by example
A leader must always lead by example. This communicates to the team members that the leader will not ask them to perform anything that the leader will not be willing to do himself/herself.

 

Situation handling
All situations are different. How one situation is handled may not apply to another, even though the situations may look similar. This is where leadership qualities come in. One must use judgment to decide the best course of action and the leadership style needed for each situation. For example, an erring employee may have to be confronted for inappropriate behaviour, but if the confrontation is too late or too early, too harsh or too weak, then the results may prove ineffective. A sympathetic approach may have to be taken in some other cases. A leader must develop the ability to read body language of his/her team members. This is easier said than done, of course!

 

Leadership qualities are also influenced by other factors like, relationship with the seniors that a leader has, the skills and experience of the team and the organisational culture.

 

Principles of good leadership can be summarised as below:

  1. Know yourself, your abilities and limitations.
  2. Always keep looking for self-improvement.
  3. Be technically proficient so that the team knows you are there to guide them.
  4. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
  5. Make sound and timely decisions.
  6. Set high ethical standards, practice self-discipline and lead by example.
  7. Know the team well and reach out to them when they need you. Show them your trust.
  8. Keep not only your team well informed but also the seniors and all those who matter.
  9. Treat every team member with respect and never play favourites.
  10. Motivate the team to develop a sense of responsibility and commitment and not function merely as a group of people doing a job.
  11. Communicate transparently and in time to ensure that the objectives of the assignments are understood by the team.
  12. Learn to delegate tasks to the team instead of taking up every task.
  13. Be a point of moral support for the team members so that they know whom to reach out to for help.
  14. Identify budding leaders within the team and help them grow into leaders themselves.

To conclude, a leader must be trustworthy and should be able to communicate a vision of where the organisation needs to go. 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.

Posted by

Sridhar Narayanaswamy

Managing partner of Innovatus Systems, founded by him on January 1, 2013. Sridhar is a result oriented professional with over four decades in the Information Technology &...

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