There is the picture of a larger than life figure leading an army.
Sometimes there is an archetypal visual of a booming war cry.
In a more contemporary imagination, we imagine world political leaders in their suits and blazers, shaking hands and signing treaties.
But being a leader doesn’t necessarily entail any of the above mentioned grandeur!
Leading teams in an office environment is definitely not about leading armies and countries. But there are some qualities which all leaders, in all environments display.
Leadership is reflected in the minutiae of our lives.
Leadership is not about force. In fact, what author Daniel Goleman has to say about an essential quality of a leader has nothing to do with bossing people around at all.
Goleman considers ‘Emotional Intelligence’ as the quality which puts a leader apart. Some seemingly simple characteristics of a person with high EI are:
- Empathy. The ability to put yourself in other’s shoes.
- Self-awareness and self-regulation. Being aware of one’s emotions and in control of them, especially during crises.
- An ability to handle interpersonal relationships in a balanced way.
One has to realise that true leadership lies in the gestures and actions. Possessing a quality is one thing, acting over it is what makes a leader.
Let us look at the quality in the context of a workplace
It is true that some designations, have “leadership” attached to it, for example a manager, director, etc. But a leader as such could be anyone, irrespective of their post. It’s the actions that show leadership qualities.
Some projects often involve efforts of many people. A leader here is someone who:
- Sets immediate and ultimate goal: it could be as small as setting up an unofficial deadline for all team-members.
- Organises the roles of all those involved in the project.
- Doesn’t simply “assign” responsibilities. Rather, he or she shapes the conversation in such a way that there is an element of choice of the team-members.
- Appreciates and gives credit to everyone’s contribution.
- Encourages to communicate ideas, no matter how bizarre one might feel they are.
He or she listens to what each one has to say and then through dialogue and consultation brings each member to pick the responsibility which perfectly matches their capabilities.
A good leader is almost always chosen unofficially and without any sort of announcement. There is a sort of unspoken, unanimous agreement working here.
Meetings are tricky. Sometimes they might turn boring, or employees may feel they are pointless. A leader would be someone who:
- Makes a suggestion about an agenda if the meeting seems to lack direction.
- Keeps a tab whether everyone has said what they wanted to say.
- Takes charge if someone is feeling hesitant in communicating.
- Keeps a tab on the structure of the meeting: when did it begin, when will it end, what would this meeting cover and what the previous one did.
Leadership involves finding a purpose for everyone, through collaboration.
It is not about exercising power but about empowering your colleagues.
It is not about rivalries and ego-tussles. It is about creating an environment with good participation, dialogue, and flow of ideas. It is about making your colleagues comfortable and at the same time, making sure no one feels hesitant to step out of the comfort zone, including yourself.