Leadership VS the Myth of the Perfect Leader

 “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves”

– Ray Kroc

Who is a Leader?

At a recent leadership workshop I asked the question, “ Who is a leader?” I got many answers and perspectives largely catergorised into leadership presence, knowledge, vision, team management and business sense.

All answers together told me 2 things:
  1. There is no single definition of a leader. Each of us want something different from the people we perceive as leaders and we want them to be “perfect” in matching our definition.
  2. We all want strong leaders and we want them to deliver! We all like to fantasize about that glorious human being who will change the world. In politics we have seen Obama( Yes We Can!) and more recently Narendra Modi being put up on that pedestal where they are expected to turn around the economic situation. We don’t care about facts or what the challenges are. We just want outcomes.
In the workplace, employees often look at their manager and expect that he/she replicate an image in their mind. When this leader fails to do so, they often feel let down, if not outright cheated. Organisations too have guidelines and criteria for leadership that they want their leaders to adhere to. All leadership programs are based on evaluations that measure desirable leadership traits promoting a “perfect” leader.For leaders, in the workplace and in business, this can mean a whole lot of pressure, to live up to expectations that are often unrealistic. All leaders want to be good leaders. They want their teams to see them as great leaders. But in a high stress, performance centric environment is it really possible to be everything to everyone?
More importantly, there is probably an image in your own head of who a perfect leader is. When you fall short of that, the negative self talk can be devastating.

So in this whole demanding environment how do you finding your leadership identity?

Originality and authenticity: You can only be the best leader when you are the best YOU. It is good to learn from mentors and other leaders but adopting their skills requires that you customise them to your style. Who are you when you are a leader? Someone who is dependable? Someone who is focussed? Someone who is in control? If you find it difficult to define this the best way would be to go back and think of your most successful moment as a leader. What was that like? Who were you in that moment? Did you feel you were in your element? If yes then that is who you are when you are being a leader. More often than not, you will feel powerful and strong when you think of that time. What did you do to get that success? Turn around a business situation maybe? Guide an employee who was stuck? What strengths of yours got you there? Focus on those strength.

Create your own definition: What is successful leadership to you? Make your list of the traits of a successful leader. Once you have this list together compare with who you feel you are. For the ones that don’t list under your strengths understand if they are important to you because they add to your strength or do you carry some notion about that trait because someone said it was a must have? Create your own measure of successful leadership and judge yourself on that. Do not compare with others.

There are no leaders without followers: Create a strong team and grow them. Single handedly success can be created but sustaining it in the long run will be difficult. Build your workplace and business support systems. Develop people and create backups. When you have a reliable workforce you will be able to take yourself away from the daily hassles and focus on bigger things like growing your business. And when you do, you will have a strong team to sustain the growth.

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