It was a couple of years ago when someone I respected told me: "You are a leader." I didn't understand what that implied. To me, being a leader meant that I had to have a trail of followers or at least be in management or a person of authority. I was none of those, at least that's what I thought. So how am I a leader?
According to Karen Biggar, Culture Coach of Tuba, leaders exhibit five fundamental soft skills that become part of our uniqueness as we mould them and make them our own. Ambition, optimism, empathy, self-efficacy and emotional stability are all soft skills that are a part of our character as a leader. As we work on these skills, over time, we will demonstrate what kind of leader we are and how strong of a leader we can be.
I will share with you in a little more depth the soft skills necessary to be an effective leader. Then I will give you an idea of how they applied to me and my discovery of being a leader. Of course, they may mean something entirely different to you, but the idea here is to narrow down what skills it takes to be a leader at your work, at home or in your community.
To be viewed as a leader in what you do, you must understand what your purpose is and how far you are willing to go with it. Ambition is the leadership trait that gives you the energy to make this happen. Often people look to their passion as a fuel for their ambition.
As I looked inside to identify my ambition as a leader, I realized that I have a vision of how my life should be lived. My passion for writing has expressed this vision, and it has been my willingness to share tidbits of my story in a blog post that has shown my ambition.
According to Karen: "An optimist chooses to see new opportunity to grow in every outcome and is able to put a positive spin on any situation." A true leader must have a dash of naivety in their action as without opportunity and hope, how can a leader engage others to move forward. Think about the best leaders that you have had, weren't they always able to find the best in the very worst of times?
This leadership trait is the one that I feel I am most strong. Once upon a time, I had a very dark past that had lead to me not being so optimistic. It was when I realized that without some blind optimism in my situation, I could never find hope to get out of it. After much deliberate practice, I found the good in most everything, and while I haven't perfected it, I can now relate to this trait as being a very integral part of my leadership.
Listening and understanding are critical to effective communication, to be a leader, you need to be able to communicate and understand the emotion of the conversation as it applies to the situation.
Empathy has always been a tough trait for me to master. I have always struggled with social awareness and reading a situation correctly. As I become more present in my life journey, I have noticed that by slowing down every conversation without trying to interject my own opinion, I have been able to build a little more empathy towards others.
Leaders need to have the ability to believe in their abilities as a leader. To have the confidence in their knowledge and drawing on experience to get stuff done regardless of the situation. Not only do leaders need to have this ability, but a true leader also needs to have the ability to instill confidence in others so that they too can believe in their abilities.
For the longest time in my life, I had never felt like I was enough for anything around me. I never had very much faith that I could perform when called upon. It wasn't until I was able to face my presence that I was able to gain the confidence to see things to the end. I believed that I had to be accomplished to gain experience, but I was too locked in my past to perform effectively. Experience doesn't come from the result; it comes from the journey between the start and the end.
To be an effective leader you need to remain cool when everything around you gets hot. Maintaining a calmness in a challenging situation keeps you open to finding solutions to problems at hand.
It is why we look to first responders as leaders. They perform at a very high rate when chaos is all around them. When a leader can remain focused in the heat of the moment, they instill trust and confidence in those around them; people feel safe.
It had taken me some time to master this part of leadership and it only really took hold when I realized that I am always in control of my reaction to anything. It doesn't matter what is happening to me. I still hold the keys to how I respond. Knowing this has built my confidence to an entirely new level and has also helped with my self-efficacy.
After reading about Karen's five skills of leadership, I now have a better grasp on what it takes to be a leader and what I have to improve upon to be a better leader. Leadership is not about acquiring the most fans or likes; it is not about making people move by your every command.
Leadership is being confident in your skin, knowing that you can be yourself when everyone wants you to be someone else. Leadership is about sharing your heart without giving it away.
Leadership is about knowing who you are and loving it.