Learn as You Lead
As I recently read a leadership-based article, Facets of Leadership, the first thing that jumped out to me was the Abstract at the beginning, and these words were powerful—especially the very last sentence: “Leadership, leader are words that are often used to describe an individual who possesses exceptional values, communication skills, confidence, respect, and effectively uses their trust and influence to promote harmony and teamwork…Leaders are change agents and must have an openness to change and not fear the risk of failure. Often ignored is one of the most essential characteristics needed by these individuals; before one can lead others effectively, he or she must know him or herself.”
When I think of leadership and even the communication skills that a leader possesses, it’s a constant, ever-growing, ever-developing journey that we, as leaders, are on. That journey is one of self-development and self-discovery—discovering more about ourselves every step of the way. It is true that we as leaders must be open to change, open to learn, open to fail, and ultimately open to succeed. I firmly believe that failure is a necessary part of the journey, and if you’re willing to learn from it, you’re destined to succeed. Additionally, fear is normal. It’s expected, and when it’s confronted, it’s defeated.
“To become a leader, then, you must become yourself…” (Warren Bennis, 2009). Become yourself...my what a journey that is! Again, self-discovery and self-realization is an ongoing journey. Over the years, I’ve learned that as you grow as a leader, good leaders realize that communication is key to your success. Communication is not merely about getting your point across and being heard, as much as it is about being open to listen to others. This enables you to gain a greater perspective about any given topic of discussion. “Being an excellent communicator and a good listener go hand in hand. Employees flourish on good communication from leaders and managers” (Gaiter, 2013). Nothing shows that you value and respect a person, or their thoughts, more than being an active listener. In my opinion, when a person feels that you value their input this, in turn, encourages them to listen to you as well.
It’s important, whether professionally, academically, or even personally, to expose ourselves to a variety of perspectives to foster growth and develop as effective leaders. Continuing to develop communication skills certainly enables good leaders to affect positive change within their organization, cultivate trust, and develop a more team-oriented group of employees who desire to work together toward a common goal. Enhancing communication skills will aid in developing a team of individuals who are not merely being told what to do because “this is how it’s always been done,” but who realize that they, as individuals, are valued, that their work is valued, and that their input is valued. In turn, they are willing to do what is necessary to affect progressive change within the organization.
Personal Motto: Leaders don’t force others to follow. Leaders lead themselves in such a way that it inspires others to follow. “Leading by example encourages others with a desire to emulate and follow one’s legacy of being an excellent leader.” (Gaiter, 2013)
Gaiter, Dorothy J. (2013), Facets of leadership. Neurodiagn J. 53:323-327
Bennis W. (2009) On becoming a leader (4th Ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Basic Books