Act like a leader, think like a leader

“You’re a natural born leader”, “Raise yourself to be a leader” “Act like a leader, think like a leader”. These are what I’m often told. Every time my line manager said one of these quotes to me, I’d think “I don’t have a leadership position.” I thought my line manger was confused. Turns out I was wrong because I conflated leadership with management. It was only recently that I learnt that leadership and management are not synonymous. Unlike me you already may know the difference but if there are some of you, who like me have conflated the two, then I hope that I will be able to help you understand the difference between the two.

I will set out by writing what leadership is not. Leadership does not depend on whether you have a title or a position. It also does not depend on the hierarchy of the company or the organisation. Holding or possessing power and authority does not mean leadership either. If one holds power and authority, one is a manager, and they manage people, but it does not necessarily make one a leader. The reason why we connect leadership to titles and positions is because in our companies or organisations we refer to the employees who hold a title or position as leaders. While that is not incorrect, I feel that it contributes to our misunderstanding of what leadership truly means. If leadership does not depend on any of these things, then what is leadership?

Harvard Business Review writes this “Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.” Thus, in its essence, Leadership means to lead, to influence horizontally and vertically. There are different styles to leadership. I don’t think it will be right to say this is the correct path to leadership or that is wrong leadership style. However, I feel that there are certain attributes that could help us to be better leaders.

The first one is to be self-aware. I think this is a critical point. To influence others, we must first know ourselves. What our strengths and weaknesses are, why we do the things we do, the way we respond to stress, the way we function. It is crucial to understand ourselves so that we can lead others in a way that will make them want to join us. There are tools like DISC, Myers Briggs Personality tests, Enneagram Tests which help us to be self-aware. I personally have done all 3 and it has really helped me to be self-aware which has helped to influence those around me. (I’m a D on DISC, ENTJ on Myers Briggs and Enneagram 8).

The second one is to be Emotionally Intelligent. I will be honest and say that this is harder to practice. But being self-aware is the first step. Emotional Intelligence helps to identify, manage, evaluate, and understand our emotions and of those around us. As per Daniel Goleman there are five elements to Emotional Intelligence which are Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social skills. I used to let my emotions control me, and trust me, that was not a beautiful scene. Today, I’m working on controlling my emotions and this has really help me to increase my influence. I feel I’m a more effective leader.

The final attribute, I don’t know if I can call it that but for lack of a better term, I will call it an attribute is to ignite iconoclasm. I promise you its not just a fancy word. To ignite iconoclasm my mentor always told me that one needs courage. Courage to swim against the tide, courage to stand against something that is wrong, and courage to be kind when its hard. Igniting iconoclasm also requires to be compassionate. Putting others before ourselves. And sometimes, this will require courage too!

I do hope that by the end of this article I have not bored you, but rather, inspired you to be a leader, to think laterally, and to increase your social influence. We’re all a work in progress. We all make mistakes, and we fall, but it is important to get up and continue. I will end my post with a quote from a great leader, Ruth Bader Ginsburg who continues to inspire me even after her death. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Author: Zothanpuii Varte