Leadership is a skill. It is not something that can be granted, appointed or awarded by others. It is not something that is tied to a position or a role and as any other skill it can be mastered in time. What is truly worrisome is that most people confuse authority with leadership. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Leadership is a really important skill but not everyone can master it. It’s important because it acts as a multiplier since it affects people around not just a single individual (self) compared to many other skills which are self oriented. The opposite applies as well: when people with no or low leadership skills are in position of power, the potential of the whole organisation is severely diminished.
Some people are natural born leaders which makes the transition much easier through the life but it can also be learned and trained. Unfortunately many people don’t realise this and are moving or are being moved into roles that do not suit them at all and make more damage than help.
Speaking of tech, in my opinion a software engineer can be remain just a software engineer throughout his or hers life, as exceptional as they might be. They don’t necessarily have to move up either because they lack this one crucial skill or by simply the fact they may not wish to.
Leaders are easy to spot. Below are a couple of signs that might help you to recognize them but don’t confuse them with authority:
- When they talk, people listen.
- Their advice is always sought after.
- They have influence but not through a mandate.
- They have a vision for their life, the project and their environment.
- People around respect them.
- They have great intuition that helps guiding them, reading other people and anticipate trends and problems.
- They naturally draw other people into their position.
- They help other people to grow.
- They recognize and appreciate the importance of autonomy and freedom.
If you recognize yourself in the signs above then you are leader and keep working on it. It will only get better and your effectiveness and success will only be higher. If you don’t recognize yourself in the above signs but you want to be one, there is no need to panic as it can be learned. You should, however, panic if you are in a leadership position already.
Great leaders never surround themselves with people less able than them. This may seem counterintuitive but it’s not as there is no direct correlation between leadership skills and coding skills let’s say. One can be a great leader without software engineering skills, those are usual high level leaders. Usually it’s a mix between leadership skills and software engineering skills. On rare occasions you can spot great software engineering skills as well as leadership skills and that’s what you call a rockstar. Unfortunately those people might get lost if the organisation they find themselves in, have weak leader.
You may now ask yourself: “How do I learn to be a leader?” That’s a topic for a future post!