Many books are written about leadership and leadership qualities and about how to be a leader, but you will never know what it is really like until you actually start performing the role of a leader and until you start acting like a leader.
In my experience I have made several observations – as a person who has been following leaders and as a person, who has been a leader herself and knows what it means to be followed. And I have made couple of observations.
- It is easy to follow because somebody has already selected a direction for you and the team. You don’t have to think much – you just do what you are told. Of course, you choose the way you will do it and you can raise your hand to make adjustments.
- It is not easy to be followed. Here you, as a leader, have to set a direction. And here you have to think – think about what is best not for yourself, but for the people for whom you select the direction. You need to take into consideration many different factors – strategy, goals, results and meaning for why you select the strategy, which you are going to pursue. And you need to be able to convince your people ( team, colleagues, friends) that what you think is good will be good for them too. You have to be able to sell your idea with the needed level of authority, so that people will be ready to follow you, trust and believe in it.
- You need to know what you want – both at work and in private life. If you don’t know what you want, you will always follows those, who know what they want and you will be implementing what they want.
- With leadership role comes responsibility. You can decide whatever you think is best, but remember that you will be held responsible for that. You and only you. There is no other person or circumstances, which you can blame. This is why it is easy to follow – you can always blame something or someone else. But if you are a leader – it is you who is held accountable. So you think twice. Think slow, decide fast.
- For the followers it is easy to complain about the leader and say they know best. But often, the minute you give them the right to decide and take leadership in their hands and be accountable for that – they back off. I made my own experiment in one of the project I led. And the outcome confirmed the expectation – sometimes, those who think they know better, rarely actually do better.
Did you experience the same challenges when you became a leader? Was the leadership role assigned to you or did you take matter in your own hands and started acting like a leader? Are you a natural leader or did you have to learn the leadership skills?