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Search for the term “leadership” on Amazon.com and you will get more than 200,000 titles. With all of these books available, there are still managers who don't know how to truly lead.
To get a better understanding of leadership, one must start with its true definition. Leadership is inspiring people to live the vision, mission and values of your organization and its community. Great leaders understand that their purpose is to shine the light on others. They know that only then will the light reflect back on them.
The greatest challenge for most people in leadership positions is that they think their skills as a manager are synonymous with being a leader. Actually, the opposite holds true. Managers facilitate people, process and product. They are there to implement strategies and find solutions to problems.
Though management is a valuable skill, leaders understand that they are there to ask the questions that stimulate new and better solutions. As a result, the community has constant and neverending improvement as it owns its vision and mission.
Myth 1: There can really only be one leader. Leadership is a behavior, not a position. The goal of any leader is to get as many people living the vision as possible. There is a leader inside each and every one of us. A great community has depth of leadership. When a community has leadership depth, it actually creates an environment where members are happy to follow one another. The more people in an organization shining the light, the brighter it becomes. If you don't like where people are, take a look at where you are leading them.
Myth 2: Leaders are born, not made. Leaders are made every day. They are the individuals who step forward and make important things happen. Leaders live the vision. A person does not need to be the boss to make important things happen. People who do outstanding jobs at their work and take full responsibility within their communities are acting like leaders. Someone who looks to find a better, smarter or faster way of making things happen is acting like a leader. The goal is to create leaders throughout the entire organization.
Myth 3: Leaders tell people what needs to happen.
Actually, leaders are smart enough to know that telling people what to do gets them nowhere. Great leaders empower people to make decisions that support the goals and vision of the community, ultimately developing smarter solutions. Their job is to inspire and coach. Leaders coach to build a community that is fully participating, both responsibly and accountably. Leaders create buy-in at every level and ensure that each member of their community knows that their contributions are important.
Myth 4: Leaders know the answers.
Leaders should be humble enough to admit that they do not know all of the answers. They are not leveraging the gifts and talents of their people if they say otherwise. Ask questions that help find the answers. Leaders understand that when they ask different questions, they get new answers. Collaboration is imperative to the success of a community.
Finally, leaders celebrate along the way. Celebration breeds energy, and energy breeds more life. They make people feel like their contributions matter more than they ever imagined possible.
Renei Cavallari is founder and director of inspiration for the Phoenix, Ariz.-based training company, Aspire. Adapted with permission from Aspire. © 2008 Aspire. All rights reserved.
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