Everyone wants to be a Leader. If you’re not currently in a leadership position you’re likely dreaming of becoming a great Leader. But, how to become a Leader? Is it skills or luck? Or, something else?What’s the right track to leadership?

There are a lot of ‘’proven’’ paths to leadership and many appear to work until another ‘’proven’’ path is advertised and gets public accolades. Regardless of their popularity, all are expensive and time consuming. What to do?

Unfortunately, the ‘’proven’’ path to leadership frequently shifts. As the economy changes, so does leadership. Most of us grew up thinking that success is tied directly to being able to guide and manage others and this generally holds true. But, how do we get the opportunity to lead others?

Once upon a time we believed getting a leadership position was based on politics or charisma; later it was intelligence. Currently, emotional intelligence is viewed as the key to becoming and remaining a Leader.

Becoming a Leader appears to work in tandem with the economy. When manufacturing was the focus for continual growth, getting the product to potential customers was the focus. Product was more important than employees and successful ‘’Leaders’’ were those who could drive employees to work harder and longer. Now, these same ‘’Leaders’’ are considered ‘’Managers form Hell.’’

We no longer tolerate ‘’Managers from Hell’’ because our world has shifted from manufacturing to a services-related economy. Employees now determine company success and few employees will tolerate the infamous ‘’Manager from Hell.’’

So, no more ‘’Managers from Hell’’ and no more playing politics or trying to impress management with our intelligence. Good guidance, but it does not explain how to get a leadership position. Why is this so difficult?

Leadership is one of the most discussed subjects in the professional world. It’s also one of the least understood words in our vocabulary.

Why do we spend time talking about leadership when we’ve not even sure of its definition? Perhaps that’s why we talk about it. We are trying to define the true meaning of leadership and the elements of a good Leader.

A true definition or description of Leadership is difficult. There are as many definitions as there are many different kinds of Leaders. This is because leadership means different things to different people.

Many of us view leadership as a position or job title,but, leadership is about influencing others to get what we want and not based on a job title. The infamous ‘’pecking order’’ of most companies requires having titles that are viewed as superior. If we want more money because we lead others, we must move into the world of supervisors, managers, directors, etc.

When we become leaders or managers, or whatever the title, we become more subject to criticism and open discussions on our successes or failures. Strongly attached to the word ‘’leadership’’ in most of our minds is the ever present ‘’leadership failure.’’ No one wants to be a failure in anything, but leadership failure is a very public display of failure.

Unfortunately, leadership failures are much more common than leadership successes. One of the negatives of becoming a Leader is failure. Perhaps one of the reasons we enjoy talking about leadership is our own fear of failure. It also likely explains the popularity of the many training classes and courses that both individuals and companies gladly purchase.

boss vs leader

Generally, if a Leader meets his/her goals, a company believes this is effective leadership. Employees often disagree if they have been victims of their manager’s wrath, criticism or belittlement. Ultimately, employees are the decision makers for leadership success.

When employees are not positively influenced by their Leader, their performance becomes delusional, and they do minimal or no work and eventually leave the company. While this is happening, work injuries, labor issues and lawsuits arise, health issues crop up and employees dis-engage from their Leader. As a result, the cost of employee non-performance exceeds goals attainment.

Smart companies evaluate the Manager (Leader) when they become aware of unhappy employees. Taking quick action on weak or ineffective managers (leaders) helps companies understand the differences in effective and non-effective leadership. It also makes a positive difference to employees’ engagement and performance when bad managers are removed or placed in non-management positions.

Being promoted to a leadership position is important. Having the needed skills and abilities is more important, unless we want to be known as a ‘’leadership failure.’’  What to do?

Train and learn the needed skills for leadership success and then, train some more. Leadership success and training go hand-in-hand.

It’s important to not only understand the key failures of leadership, but also how to avoid or conquer the most common failure in leadership, which are:

  • Cannot or does not lead others;
  • Weak execution skills;
  • Cannot articulate their vision;
  • Unaware of industry trends;
  • Incompetent

Why is Leadership failure more common that Leadership success? When Mark Miller, the author of The Heart of Leadership, was asked this question, he stated that a leader’s character determines their success or failure. Mr. Miller believes that the five critical elements of leadership success are:

  1. Hunger for wisdom,
  2. Expect the best,
  3. Accept responsibility,
  4. Respond with courage, and
  5. Think of others first.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, disagree. They believe that leadership as a relationship is the key to successful leadership and endorse the following practices as critical to success:

  1. Model the Way,
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision,
  3. Challenge the Process,
  4. Enable Others to Act, and
  5. Encourage the Heart.

Regardless of whether you believe successful leadership is based on character or relationships, both can be learned. And, learning is the ‘’golden ring’’ to success. Leaders, or ‘’Want to be’’ Leaders can be trained through a combination of learning, experience, practice and many hours of effort.

Once you have the ‘’golden ring’’ of training for successful leadership, make it known: share your learned abilities with others, ask for a promotion, volunteer to lead others or shop for a leadership position. After all, time is money and it’s ‘’time’’ to be a successful leader.

Hansica Kh.