Over the years I’ve read quite a few books, listened to many lectures, and just generally “learned” more than I care to learn about others views on leadership. So here’s mine:
First things first, you can’t learn how to be the leader you want to be just by reading a few books. A majority of leadership books I’ve read are just studies performed in controlled environments about the stories and abilities of a handful of folks who went from being average-joe-workers to CEOs. In my opinion, these stories and almost dumb luck-type scenarios aren’t particularly realistic of everyday leaders, or of great, natural born leaders that one might aspire to be like. I think the best way to learn about becoming a better leader is to do two things:
- find the traits, abilities, and strengths of leaders you aspire to, and then determine which of these best suits your leadership style and how you can apply them
- (and this is the most important step of all) go be a leader. Try it out in the real world. No amount of reading, listening, or pondering about leadership will make you a better leader; just go be a leader!
To me, leadership is not a scientific endeavor, one where you can study and learn about it for a period of time and then become the world’s next Winston Churchill. Leadership is rather an art form, a soft, touchy-feely skill that some people inherently possess and others don’t.
The most important trait a leader needs to have is to be a people-person, because let’s be honest, how can one direct, teach, convince, assemble and otherwise interact with a diverse group of individuals to create a well-oiled, honest, productive and happy team without being able to speak with people, sympathize with people, and bond with people. Secondly, a leader should be intimately aware of his/her own skills or assets, and those of his/her team members to be able to maximize the effectiveness of the team and allow the team members to focus on (and work in the area of) their individual strengths as opposed to, for example, forcing a team member to work on a project in an area they are weak in, or just generally dislike.