The psychology of leadership

Today’s article comes from Principal Consultant, Liaquat Lal.

Leaders are born, not made.

There are many thousands of clichés about leadership and business which we have all heard – but this is the one I think is the most damaging – to leaders, to business and to anyone who has ever had a boss they didn’t really like.

Leaders are just people. They’re you, they’re me, they’re Karen from accounts, Darius from marketing, Marina from the gym. They are the people who inspire, guide and support others – professionally, personally and passionately.

Leadership is all about context – and that context is ever changing. Therefore, there is no universal set of leadership skills and behaviours that fit everyone, contrary to what the leadership development industry purports. Leading a small group of charity volunteers is very different to leading a financial services telemarketing function.

Very simply, Leadership can be defined as creating belief in people – and you don’t need to be in a paid role to do that. Look at the Global Climate Strike – a movement which has swept the globe, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and her campaign work on climate change; marches and petitions are leading the news – all inspired by the precise, impassioned and honest truth spoken so eloquently by a 16 year old who simply wants to protect the planet, and speaks softly but convincingly to leaders of world government and school children in the same terms.

Greta Thunburg holding a sign which reads “School strike for climate” – image from CNN

Greta is proof that leadership is about the person, not the title. Sometimes leaders are the MD, sometimes they’re the person beside you on a railway platform. It doesn’t matter what role they are in, it matters who they are – and how they communicate that with you.

For some people the skills and behaviours which make a great leader are innate – they are part of their unique psychology and character, and others are just naturally drawn to their guidance and support, to follow their lead.

For others – and these are the ones I spend most of my time with – leadership is a passion and vocation for which they are constantly striving; a position they have earned, trained for, worked towards and achieved because they have committed to being the best leader that they can be, and developing the skills and behaviours which will make them the strongest and most successful leader they are capable of being.

As business author Tom Peters said; “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”.

So, are these innate, natural leaders better than those who have committed to being their best? Is an unthinking ability to do something well more successful than someone who trains and tries and strives to be their best?

We could make an argument for both – and there are both kinds of people successfully leading fantastic, thriving businesses all over the world. But there are also many thousands of people who believe that they don’t have the ability to be great leaders, because they are quieter, less charismatic and bold than those celebrity leaders, more analytical and process driven than those risk taking TED talkers, who were born to be part of something, and who don’t believe in themselves as the leader of their own destiny, let alone head of a successful organisation.

The truth is that we all have something to offer as leaders – we all bring something unique and formidable to the mix, and leadership isn’t about telling people what to do to succeed – it’s about recognising that mix, bringing the skills and combined knowledge of a team together to ensure that they all succeed, and with the right training, guidance, support and learning a powerful, progressive leader can be born from the experience and attitudes of anyone.

The science of leadership means tapping into the psychology of how people learn and communicate, how they fit within a team, how that team functions within a larger organisation, how individuals can use their range of abilities, skills and experiences to make their workforce believe in success, and reach it.

As with all people, some leaders are great – and some just think that they are. We see in the news that leadership is a contentious and challenging area – and that those who believe in their leaders can be very passionate – and vocal – about that support.

They can also be blind to the failings and weaknesses of a leader that they are passionately behind – which can also be problematic – but, again, the psychology of leadership means that someone in a position of power has the ability to influence the people who follow them – and this, in your organisation, can be the difference between success and failure.

A leader who is drunk on their own power can damage the culture of your office environment, and can also damage the relationships you have with clients as a result – and this can have a significant negative impact on growth and profits. A weak leader could see your team drifting along, confident that their sloppy work and lax attitude won’t be called out and the business won’t thrive – but will plod along.

A competent leader can lead a competent team – but is that enough?

Einstein said “I don’t teach my students. I create an environment in which they can learn” – effective leadership is about creating the right environment, in which your people can do their best work feeling the best they can.

Why settle for dangerous leaders, or even just competence? Why settle for anything less than the best that you can develop from the workforce you have built? No matter how big or small the team, leadership skills can be developed, enhanced and supported with the right framework for learning and training – and the behaviours of successful leadership can me embedded into any organisation with the right support.

And that’s where we come in. We work with your organisation, with your existing and future leaders, and with the personalities and skills they bring to your team – and we help them to shape their own future as inspirational, impactful and impressive leaders.

Do you want to learn more, and work with our team on your better tomorrow? Just ASK…

Call today on 01234 757575 or email me on [email protected] and let’s book a meeting to talk through your specific goals, and how I can design a programme which takes you there.

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