To understand what leadership is, we need to consider leaders in the real world. Title, position, or charisma may help you become a leader, but you don’t need them to start leading others. A leader is not a boss. Some managers love hearing people call them boss, but many deserve boos. A leader influences you to do what’s good for you and others.
This Guide is for Leaders
You are a good leader when you recognize and appreciate the assets of each follower, maximize their efforts, and multiply their impact to create the future they care about.
The meaning of leadership differs from one person to another. We are meaning-making people.
To define is to name and limit the meaning of something for common understanding. When we define an abstract concept like leadership and leading, we can start a conversation and understand where each one is coming from.
So, before we start discovering and understanding what leadership is, let’s start with definitions.
What is leadership?
Leadership refers to a group of leaders with the mandate, authority, and responsibility to lead an organization to realize its vision and fulfill its mission while staying true to commonly shared beliefs. These leaders design strategies, set goals and objectives, implement policies and execute plans. In addition, they must conduct themselves according to the organization’s rules, enable other leaders, improve processes, and motivate people.
Leadership may also refer to a person’s actions and activities to influence people to take action. Leadership requires a clear understanding of people’s motivation, building trust, and the ability to sell a better future for everyone. In this sense, leadership does not require a position or title. Leadership is influence.
Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, guide, and enable others to make things happen. You need leadership to accomplish a project, solve challenges, manage a business, or lead a movement. One does need a title or charisma to be a leader.
What Is Not Leadership?
Leadership is not about bossing people around. You can tell people to do something because their employment depends on their ability to please you. But your happiness is not their happiness. Insecure bosses often fail, so they become power-trippers. Even not-so-powerful people resort to power-tripping.
It isn’t about having people follow you because you pay for their services. You don’t exercise leadership with the waiter who serves your food. You don’t exercise leadership with an employee who is afraid to lose his job when you are not pleased. You don’t exercise leadership with someone who will do anything for a price.
You exercise leadership when people work with you to achieve shared dreams. Even in your absence, they will continue to work to see that they finish what you started.
What is a leader?
A leader is a person who influence, guide, enable, and inspire others to achieve a shared purpose. People follow a leader because of legitimate power and personal power. A legitimate power emanates from laws and agreements. An elected president, for example, is a legitimate leader. Personal power comes from a leader’s ability to build trust, confidence, and people. Charismatic leaders often possess both legitimate and personal power. Leaders differ in characteristics, styles, and strategies for leading people.
Though there no leaders are the same, experts come up with leadership models to define good leadership and model people after a model.
We will explore each of these concepts later. Let us define leadership development.
What is leadership development?
Leadership development refers to the process and activities that ensure leaders acquire the confidence and competence to lead. Leadership development may include training, mentoring, coaching, and self-learning.
For an organization to succeed, it must develop leaders. Allow me to explain further.
You can be appointed to important positions because of your technical skills. Or get a post because of your ability to connect with people.
But leaders must make people deliver. And people are not as predictable as machines or mathematical equations.
Leaders must make people love what they hate. Leaders must make people believe they can go beyond their limits. Leaders must make the possible probable.
Everyone in the organization has the potential to lead others. But not everyone has the knowledge, skills, and disposition of leadership. This is why companies design interventions to develop leaders.
Interventions are enablers. Examples of interventions are training, coaching, mentoring, and counseling.
For professionals to succeed, they must invest in technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills.
The most common intervention is training.
What is leadership training?
Leadership training refers to instructional and experiential activities provided to leaders in an organization to increase knowledge, build skills, and develop the standards for leading people and growing the business. Effective leadership training will help leaders do their jobs correctly and purposefully.
Most training programs for leaders are based on the idea that leaders have to develop a specific set of skills.
These providers design leadership training programs the way they design training for technical skills. This is not effective.
You can train someone how to assemble a cellular phone. You can train everyone with the same steps. You cannot do this in training.
Once you recognize that you do not grow to fit in a box, then you will focus on creating opportunities for leaders to grow.
You can take a peek at the leadership training programs I design for companies.
Importance of Leadership
There are five reasons why leadership is important. Leadership improves morale, engages people, builds trusting relationships, inspires confidence, and enables innovation. Because of leadership, people come together to make things happen.
Famous leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I agree. And this is why leadership is of utmost importance. Without it, even the most prominent organizations in the world will fall. With it, the impossible becomes possible.
In the world of work, the value of leadership is very evident. I will discuss each of the five reasons why leadership is important.
Good leaders improve morale.
In a VUCA world, people need to know that you care for them. Malasakit is a superpower. And compassionate leaders show that they understand people.
VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. A century ago, progress moves very slowly. Things are stable. You can come up with a product that you can sell for decades. These days a product can be obsolete after a year. That’s because it is easier to invent new things. These are exciting times. But may get motivated. Leadership can help improve morale.
Many things are uncertain and complex. For example, our experience with the Covid-19 pandemic showed us that though the information is everywhere, there is still much that we don’t know. We are clueless about how to handle people who were working from home. We did not know how to keep and improve productivity. Leadership that understands and connects saves the day.
People do not understand. Things are ambiguous. There are good things, and there are bad things happening. When people are not in control, they become afraid. Leadership helps people to control what they can.
Good leaders engage people.
People are committed to giving their best at work because leaders make them feel important. They know their vision, purpose, and the impact of what they do. Engaging leaders keep people motivated and enable them to deliver excellent work.
In volunteer organizations, engaging leaders make people win every time. Every volunteer organization can only last a week in the presence of inspiring leaders. Don’t worry if you are not an inspiring leader because this guide will lead you to some tools and leadership training programs.
Good leaders build trusting relationships.
Leaders bring people with different backgrounds, skills, and talents together. He is the bridge from one person to another.
It is a common mistake to think that everyone follows the leader. An organization is a living organism. Leaders connect people to a common purpose. But more than that, he finds ways to build trust between people.
Good leaders inspire confidence.
Leaders sell people their capabilities to make things happen. They do this by enabling their people. They become trainers, mentors, and inspirations. Effective leaders allow people to make small wins as they look forward to the big wins.
Leadership is important because people need it when they are discouraged. Your ability to motivate people to try new things and help them win builds confidence.
Good leaders enable innovation.
A good leader challenges the process. They look for ways to make things better, cheaper, bigger, easier, faster, or more valuable. We live in an ever-evolving world. The leaders who thrive are those who enable turn employees into creators.
As you read How to Grow Your Leadership and the Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders, consider the impact you can make as a leader.
What Leadership Is About
Based on the definitions you read and the five reasons why leadership is important, I will tell you what leadership is about.
Leadership is about helping people co-create the better future they really care about.
It begins with you, but it is not about you. Leadership is about the people you lead. For this reason, your people can replace you when you are no longer serving them. And that’s okay. You let go of leadership when you start to become the obstacle. Your purpose is to help people.
Leadership is about co-creation. People come together to realize a shared purpose. Each one has a role to play. In this sense, everyone is playing a leadership role. Some roles are bigger than others, but each is creating a new reality.
Leadership is about a new future. You don’t lead to making things stay the same. This is why a conservative leader is an oxymoron. There are things we need to retain, but leadership is about progress. If the intention is to make things stay the same, we don’t need a leader. Leaders initiate change.
Now, that you have learned what leadership is about, let’s explore the 4 simple steps to grow your leadership.
How to Become a Good Leader
I will share with you four ways to grow your leadership. These ideas are very simple, you might ignore them. Please don’t. Start seeing yourself as a leader today and do what good leaders do.
1. Set your leadership goal.
Know what you want to achieve and WHY. Leadership is moving from A to B or C or D. You want something better than today. Be clear about what you want for yourself and others.
If you can only think of your dream, that’s okay. Leadership begins with self.
If you want to make a difference in the lives of other people, then I suggest you figure out how you can sell your ideas to these people. Your vision will become a shared vision.
A vision shared with others is more challenging and rewarding. This means you have to learn how to communicate more effectively.
In my life, I have been elected too many times to leadership. But you can say that I was a hesitant leader. I did not want to lead. But there are people who pushed me, and because of what they did, I learned little things about leadership.
One of those things is that you have to set your goals. Set goals for your organization. Set goals for your people. Set goals for yourself.
Many times, I found myself overachieving. Not because I am a great leader. It was because I set smaller goals.
You can set your big hairy audacious goals. If it makes your hairy stand, that’s a pretty good clue that you are doing it right. Don’t worry if your goal sounds like an impossible dream. Every great thing starts as impossible.
Later, you will discover how to turn your goals into milestones. Milestones are possible and doable achievements.
Again, you can make your leadership a goal. You can move from X to Y by When.
2. Assess Your Reality.
Examine where you are now. This is very important. You need to know your present situation or the situation of the people you want to lead.
It is important that while you are looking at the heavens (your vision), you are very much aware of where you are standing.
Some gurus recommend that you do your personal SWOT. You can try that too.
My recommendation is to focus on what you have. Consider what strengths and opportunities you have today.
Do your SOAR assessment.
Begin with your strengths. Think about all your experiences and those times when you are at your best. Rediscover the assets and talents you have.
Explore the Opportunities. Your strengths can tell you a lot more about what you can do with others. When I discovered that my stories can make people listen and inspire them to do something about their lives, I started to think of many opportunities to help others.
Identify all your aspirations. What change do you want to see in the world? What value do you want to create? Dream big and let your dreams inspire you.
Determine your results. What is the positive impact you want to make happen? This is a goal, your big hairy audacious goal.
With SOAR, you can bring Step 1 and Step 2 together. In truth, it does not matter which one comes first. These are not really steps going upward. This is an iterative process. You will keep going back to what you already have, and you will improve how you construct your goals.
Just focus on what you already have.
A common pitfall is to focus on what you don’t have. Many leaders do not move until everything is ideal.
But our situations seldom become ideal. We cannot wait until life is not hard anymore before we choose to act.
You already have talents, skills, and maybe resources you can use. Find out how you can get started with them to reach your goal.
3. Find the biggest Opportunities.
Before you take action, you need to identify the opportunities for growth. This is why it is important to zero in on your realities. You will discover many opportunities you can use to speed up your leadership.
Find out how you can move strategically from where you are to where you want to go.
Before I decided to become an inspirational speaker, I was a school teacher. I have stories to tell. I was a decent speaker, having been trained in debate, theater, street activism, and as a classroom teacher.
I have leadership qualities, talents, and skills I can use. I read books on professional speaking, selling, and marketing. But I knew I need something more. The ability to teach in a classroom is not the same as the ability to wow a paying audience.
I needed to evolve. That means I have to work on crucial leadership skills which I still don’t have. I must amplify what I already have and find complementary skills to multiply my impact.
I explored the strategies and techniques of those leaders I look up to. I did not just pick the “famous” leadership gurus. Instead, I looked for leaders who are living the life that I desire.
Anyhow, one of the strategies I found is to speak often and well. This is why I joined Toastmasters International and offered myself as a speaker in Rotary International and other civic organizations. I used email to reach out to as many people as possible.
When it comes to your leadership, you also need to explore the strategies and tactics that can help you become a better leader.
4. Will it.
You need a strong will to start and continue toward the fulfillment of your vision as a leader. Many dreamers plan for their success with full enthusiasm, but lose the will at the first fall.
Leadership is not a position alone. It is a disposition. You can do the first steps above sitting down or while drinking your favorite coffee at Starbucks.
But the will to go on when no one seems to believe in you is the true essence of leadership.
That’s because a leader who believes in the nobleness of his mission and who cares about the people he is leading will not stop until he makes things happen.
I recommend that you use my version of the Personal Development Plan in creating your Leadership Development Plan. Steps 3 and 4 ensure that you keep on moving each day.
The six articles below can also help you get started in your leadership journey.
You can also find inspiration in the five exemplary leadership practices I explained below. These are the best practices of good leaders worldwide.
5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership
I shared above the four steps to becoming a good leader. Remember the acronym GROW and SOAR. Notice that these ideas are like you choosing food on a buffet table. You pick the ones that you like.
The next topic is about exemplary practices of good leaders. Remember, I told you that when you consider the actions you need to take, you can start with these five practices.
The five practices of exemplary leaders are vital behaviors. Vital behaviors are leverage actions. You can find more vital behaviors to help you create a breakthrough. For example, keeping your momentum is essential to leadership success.
What are vital behaviors?
Vital behaviors are the smallest actions that lead to the desired results. They are the few high-leverage actions that, if you keep doing them, produce the outcomes you’re after.
1. Model the Way.
To model the way is to lead by example. You can inspire people when you walk the talk. Begin with your values, then find out what’s important to others too.
We begin with our shared values.
We must lead by example. Our actions are the best demonstrations of our beliefs.
So that we can share the culture that will we desire and search for those people who can help us set examples for others to follow. They can be your exemplars inside the organization.
You can highlight this by catching people leading by example and celebrating them.
2. Inspire a Shared Vision.
To inspire a shared vision, you need to clarify the future that people really care about. Consider the pains they want to ease or the good life they want to enjoy.
Start with what you care about. Consider the things that you are tired of. Think of possibilities. Ask people what they want to change. People can tell you the future they want.
Share your vision with others. Tell your stories. Listen to them. Discover their dreams. Make each vision live in you by making your heart see all the possibilities when you work together.
3. Challenge the Process.
Challenging the process does not require a revolution. You can start with small changes. Celebrate your win. When you fail, learn from experiences.
One of the strategic skills of leaders is their ability to create and innovate. Leaders take the initiative. We call that kusang-palo in Filipino. We don’t have to be told because we take ownership of problems. Situations are not ideal, but we find ways.
We consider what others want. We listen. We explore solutions with them.
Most people won’t always try. They follow the bandwagon. But good leaders look for new ways. They think differently.
Challenging the process is what leadership is about. Leadership is imagining and making change happen.
4. Enable others to Act.
Good leaders do not make their followers depend on them. Enable others to act. Build an army of people who can help you move an inch toward your shared vision.
Your first job is that of a trust-builder. You make people trust you and create a climate where they trust each other.
Good leaders unite people for a common noble purpose. Bad leaders divide people. Some leaders unite people, so they hate others. This action creates mistrust.
People can work even in your absence. Train, coach, and mentor.
5. Encourage the Heart.
It is the leader’s job to help people gain both courage and confidence. Good leaders expect the best from others. They set high standards and inspire people to be at their best always.
Excellence leaders engage people. They create a community that motivates each other. They do understand the power of intrinsic motivation, and they are personally involved.
Become an Effective Leader
Developing leadership competencies can make you an effective and influential leader. Competencies are performance enablers. Competencies are sets of knowledge and skills that help leaders achieve their objectives.
The leaders most people know are those who get elected to office. Often, they rely on name recall and charisma. But charisma isn’t enough to make a big difference.
Think about the charismatic political leaders we had. Unfortunately, those who lack leadership skills failed us. They promised the heavens and the stars but could not deliver their promises.
To become effective, you must identify and master the skills you need to deliver your tasks, projects, or vision.
Leadership training provides opportunities to learn concepts, theories, strategies, and tools. However, the best way to learn leadership is via experience. Leadership training, when designed correctly, may provide you with a hyperfocus experience.
By understanding the experience of others, and what they think about leadership, you can speed up your learning. More importantly, you can avoid repeating the mistakes of others. You will know what works and what does not work.
Leadership training needs to be relevant to your present function and future needs. Study real-world examples. Find answers to your most important challenges. Build competencies and master the tools for effective leadership.
Training in the Philippines
I offer training programs for Filipino leaders. Most of the programs I designed are for private companies, though I sometimes cater to government agencies.
My most popular programs are team-building workshops. I conduct workshops for first teams. Your first team is composed of the management team of your organization. These team-building programs are strategic. I also have a team of facilitators that handles big groups (300 persons and above).
Training in Malaysia
I conducted leadership training programs in Malaysia some years back. In 2023, I will start speaking and training in Malaysia. You can bring my leadership training programs through my partners in Malaysia.
Training in Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore
I may start conducting leadership training programs in Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore beginning in the third quarter of 2023. We have identified ten training programs. I will make the following announcement in January 2023. If you are interested in partnering with our organization, feel free to contact me.
Training in Brunei
I got an invitation to train executives from Brunei. They will conduct their team-building programs here in the Philippines. So there is an opportunity to bring my leadership training programs to Brunei too.
Continue your journey to good leadership. Explore the following articles and share them with others.
When people ask you why you are doing what you are doing, what would be your answer? May these articles help you clarify your purpose.
- Mission, Vision, and Values spell your strategic direction. I call it your purpose or your WHYs for leading.
- 7 Questions to Clarify Team Purpose. Knowing your purpose is the beginning of your leadership. But you won’t stop there. You must understand both personal and team purposes.
- 7 Practical Self-Leadership Tips. These tips are for supervisors, but anyone who desires to become a better leader will also find these tips practical.
- Embrace Winning Personal Values. Not all values are equal. Many values limit us, and some values empower us. Choosing values is a deliberate effort.
- Filipino Values. Knowing the values of the people you lead provides clues on how they make decisions. I explained the values most Filipinos share and shared ways you can use them in the workplace.
- Leadership Characteristics. Discover the qualities of good leaders. Take inventory of the qualities you already possess and explore other desirable characteristics.
- 21 Benefits of Leadership Training. Every employee deserves to enjoy the benefits of leadership training. Find out why.
Mindset & Principles
One can develop the skills necessary to lead people. But with the wrong mindset, we won’t go further. Our mindset defines our distance and velocity.
- 19 Leadership Principles. Have you written your leadership principles? You need to know your non-negotiables.
- Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset. Leaders who embrace a growth mindset are the ones who make breakthroughs. Find out why.
- 1000x Mindset. How does one dream bigger dreams? A thousandfold mindset is my answer.
- Today is the Best Time to Take the Lead. The pandemic disrupted our lives; good leaders emerged.
- Passion for Excellence. Do better than your best.
- Be the Power of One. You can start with only one person: you.
- Why They Are Afraid to Lead. Excuses, mostly.