As we have been working on our research into best practice in leadership, we have become more and more aware that people really do know intuitively what makes someone a leader, as opposed to being a manager. The leader is taking people somewhere that is better in some way than where they are now. He/she may be improving the workplace conditions, may be inspiring people to a higher performance level, may be innovating in the way they conduct their business, and they may be making a positive difference to their community.
However this is not achieved by telling people to change, it is achieved by inspiring people to change, and literally leading the way, making the path. We often forget that one of the most literal definitions of a leader is that they are the person who is setting the pace, carving the route, leading the field. They are out front, setting the example. Yet, intuitively we know that if we are looking to change the habits and customs we have for something better, we need someone to be prepared to have a go first. If Roger Bannister had not run the mile in 4 minutes, no-one else would have believed they could do it as well. If Mandela had not said that he could forgive all those who had punished him for his convictions, there would not have been a council for reconciliation in South Africa to deal with those who had maintained the apartheid regime, there would have been trials and punishment.
So, if we want to truly be leaders in our own spheres, we need to be the change we want, be prepared to stand out front and set the example. How do we do this? We don’t have to make a major stand to make a big difference. We just have to live our lives and do our work in the way we want others to. It is simple, yet very powerful.
So if you want people to be empowered, empower yourself! Take that action or decision that feels right, yet isn’t usual policy.
If you want people to work together and share their knowledge, work with your team, give them what you know and ask them for their expertise.
If you want people to treat each other with respect, then ensure that you treat everyone with respect.
If you want people to enjoy their work, enjoy your own!