There are natural-born leaders. People for whom talent and charisma come as easily as breathing. People for whom others will say things like, “I would follow him/her to Hell and back”; “When they speak, I can’t help but listen”; or, “He/She is a real leader of men.” We tell stories about these people, make movies about them, propagate the legend of their leadership in times of crisis and in times of peace both. But, for every single one of these people—both fictional and real—with leadership skills seemingly baked into their genetic code, there are thousands, if not millions of us that need to learn what it means to lead, and more than just to lead, but to become a leader, because there is a difference in knowing how to lead and knowing how to be a leader. While both very important skills, one is knowing how to delegate responsibility, make others happy, and how to solve problems, while the other is learning to become the person others implicitly go to when these things need to happen.
So, how do you become a leader? And what does becoming a leader really mean?
Effective communication is one of the, if not the most necessary skill for a good leader. But, communication isn’t always about saying the right words. Exceptional communication also means being able to empathize with others, following through on promises made, and listening to the concerns of those around you and taking appropriate action based on what you’ve heard. Good and open communication is one of the truly foundational elements of successful leadership, and its benefits are readily apparent to everyone involved when employed properly. Simply put, in order to be heard, you must listen, and in order to speak, you need to know who is listening.
The ability to admit when you’ve screwed up isn’t something that comes naturally. When there is blame to be accepted for an error, the leader must be the one to accept it, because, by being the leader, you are taking on not just the responsibility of yourself, or your team in the abstract, but of the real-world work of your charges. Responsibility also means being able to reward and congratulate your employees and spreading accolades and appreciation where appropriate can go a long way. When you can accept blame and pass on congratulations to those who truly deserve it, a leader is born.
Great leaders can sustain a balance between creating a strategy and supporting and guiding others to execute that strategy. The politics and pressures associated with being in a business leadership position can be merely exhausting on a good day, and completely overwhelming on a bad one. Making decisions that impact your team is a responsibility that can at times create a sense of tension. Building a resilient mindset is often the missing link for leaders who don’t want to stop at being an effective leader, but rather want to be an exceptional leader. Resilience is the key to dealing with leadership challenges effectively and boosting leadership performance to thrive in your position.
But, ultimately, this is just one brand, one style of leadership among many. As Dr. Gil Brady, a professor in Alliant’s PhD in Leadership program explains, “My doctoral degree is from GW, where the view of leadership is that if you understand how to build and maintain a learning community, then you are leading properly—think Peter Segni—the fifth discipline. So, if we take a look at Alliant, there is incorporation of that idea, and that is why I feel comfortable here, but we also add a very important aspect to the model, which is the impact that diversity has on an organization and community…Studying leaderships is not just how a group learns together, it’s also about the makeup of the group, and asking ourselves how are we able to leverage the diversity that we have in our community; are we able to see creating a more diverse group as a productive step?”
So, if answering the call to leadership interests you, or if you think you just have the knack and are waiting to find a way to show it to the world, check out our PhD in Leadership program and contact an Admissions Counselor at 1-866-825-5426.
Dean, California School of Management and Leadership
California School of Management and Leadership
Dr. Rachna Kumar is a professor of information systems and technology in the School of Business at Alliant International University...