It takes more than a degree, more than being good at certain skills, more than being promoted to boss or manager to be a great leader. Yet many workers, no matter what level they are, do become the leaders companies are looking for. So why do some succeed while so many others struggle?
First, it starts with the attitude.
It makes no different what level you are or what skills you posses, if you have a habit of being a hot head, blaming everyone else or when the heat is on, fold like a bad hand, then chances are you have lots of work to do. It will take more than just trying to be good and positive. In the movie Draft Day, Kevin Costner notices something about the lead draft pick that, to Kevin, is more important that all the skill and hype about the player; it is the players attitude. Anyone can smile when the lights are on themselves, but it is what happens when the stuff hits the fan that tells the story of a person’s attitude. Is the person tight and saying things to cover their own rump, or are they taking the heat themselves and helping others to problem solve and look good? And do they have complete trust of others? Do people come to them with questions and thoughts or do other workers just leave them out of the loop. Attitude says it all. (Note – a true leader NEVER says they “are the leader”. People know it. Period).
Second, you have to have good work skills and habits.
Someone who can’t plan and execute a meeting or does not use a good format to solve a problem or make a decision are in for a tough struggle. No one is going to believe someone who cant get it together themselves. So how do you get those skills? Training and perfect practice. First time you played a computer game, hit a golf ball, or baked a roast, did it come out perfect? Of course not. And when the skill needed polishing, you worked for perfection. A leader is always looking for ways to improve themselves. And they have the simple audacity to ask people around them how they can improve. “What can I do better next time”? And more important, when some gives you helpful feedback, thank them for being honest.
Third, be honest when you don’t have a good answer or the facts.
This builds trust with others. If someone asks a leader a question and they can’t give an honest answer, they tell others they don’t know and take the initiative to look for the facts. Leaders don’t assume, they have the guts to actually ask people who have the information for the facts. Then they think through how to transcribe the information so it makes sense. Example, HR just announced a new policy and people are burned about it. A true leader does not just jump to disagreement with their peers. They tell them that they will do some digging as soon as there is a break in the work to find out what is going on. The leader talks to someone in HR and realizes that the policy is actually a good thing, and has lots of back up data to explain to their peers why they really need to follow the policy. They my not be happy with HR’s policy, but they will follow it the best possible.
Becoming a leader takes time, but every day can be another step in the training. A diamond is made out of coal, but needs both time and pressure to be real. Leaders come from every nook and cranny. But most important, they have the desire DNA within themselves to make it happen.