What does it mean to be a leader?
Recently, I just finished reading one of John Maxwell’s books, “5 Levels of Leadership”. We each have different definitions of leadership. Normally, we relate leadership with words such as responsibility, inspiring, supportive, commander, and director. However, John Maxwell did not just describe and explain leadership in terms of adjectives and abstract concepts but rather, he narrated stories that drew the line between good leadership and great leadership.
As I read this book, I was able to encounter insights which made me both question and realize the true nature of leadership. I would like to share some of them with you:
1. Good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself. It’s about advancing your team.
Often times, the main goal is to climb up the ladder. We all want to grow and develop ourselves. We want to be faster and better than others. But in an organization, this kind of mindset will set you off to a cliff and endanger your team.
Advancing yourself isn’t really bad, in fact, improvement is essential to growth. However, when you just focus on that, your team will eventually suffer. Why? Because everything you do will always translate to you achieving this personal goal. You will tend to ask again and again, “What’s in it for me?” instead of “What can this do for my team?”.
2. Nobody achieves anything great by giving the minimum.
Giving the minimum essentially means being mediocre. As a leader, you need to push your organization further to the positive extreme, and that only happens if you push yourself first. Quit having that mindset of “Okay”, and switch that to “How can I do it better?” or “How can I become a better leader for my team?”.
Also, John Maxwell explained that what you do, the team does. The leader serves as an example for the team. He sets the bar in the organization. If the leader gives only 50%, the organization will also give 50%.
3. An organization will not function on a level higher than its leader.
“If a level 1 leader is in charge, the organization will eventually be a level 1 organization. If a leader is on level 4, then the organization will never get to level 5 — unless the leader grows to that level.”
This is a new lesson for me. I would always think that the leader holds power and control over what is happening in the organization and may have some influence over the organization, but I never realized that the leadership level is what drives an organization higher.
In the book, it showed examples of how high level leaders were able to bring the organization to more success. High level leaders know how to build meaningful relationships with members, develop them into brilliant leaders, and widen the organization’s scope and network.
4. A leader finds ways to influence action.
“Leadership is action, not position.”
Being a leader is a tough job. If you’re a leader that only cares about the position, it’s easy. But if you’re a leader who wants to inspire and make an impact to the people around you and to the world? You’re gonna need the correct mindset, strong persistence, and a good amount of hard work.
As a leader, your role is not only to make great things and inspire your team, but it is also to influence them to do more, to be more. It is your responsibility to move your members forward. If they’re not improving or going the extra mile to develop themselves, something’s wrong. Evaluate your leadership style and calibrate.
5. Capacity is not the problem — choice and attitude are.
“The choice to lead needs to be theirs.”
I see this happen a lot of times. People would think that there are only a number of people fit to lead. These are the people who are extroverted, intelligent, and inspirational. When I was in high school, I would always shy away from leadership opportunities because I didn’t see myself fit to be a leader. However, I fail to realize that I too was capable of leading, if only I choose to step forward.
Leadership is not purely talent; it is a process. Leaders do not become leaders by knowing the A-Z’s in leadership. They become leaders because of what they choose, do, and experience with the team.
6. Leaders are measured by the caliber of leaders they develop, not the caliber of their own leadership.
“A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.” — Simon Sinek
The ultimate goal of leadership, as John Maxwell mentioned, is to develop other leaders. When you develop leaders, you make room for them at the top level. You give bigger opportunities to them, along with heavier responsibilities. When they see your commitment in their growth, they see that you value them. In turn, they will help you grow your organization.
In developing these leaders, you train them to become competent and effective leaders, able to empower other people. You challenge their values and attitudes. You keep them in constant discovery and growth. All in all, these are what truly define you as a leader.
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