Everyday experiences and tasks can be a great source of knowledge on how to be a good leader. Here’s a few tips I’ve learned on how you can apply a leadership filter in your daily life experiences to think about your study and workplaces, as well as your community, as platforms to strengthen your leadership skills.
Find your essential reads
As obvious as it may sound, start from the beginning - READ. No one can learn how to be a leader without finding out what great leaders did in the past or are doing right now. From biographies and memoirs such as “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson and “Occupational Hazards” by Rory Stewart (now also a play at the Hampstead Theatre in London) to classic leadership texts such as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, books about leaders and successful people offer good guidance and can help you learn the language to communicate not only with people in more senior positions, but to build rapport with people from diverse backgrounds. For example, if you are on the tube, take a look around and see what people are reading. Ask your team leader what their favourite book is. Do your research and find your essential leadership reads – books you can return to whenever you need.
Learning by observing
When at university or at work, make sure to always observe the leaders around you. From professors and student union officers to work colleagues and team leaders, observe what they’re doing that is working and what isn’t. Note how they present their ideas, organise and lead meetings and ask for/give feedback. Most importantly, also observe those outside your own study and work environments. Look around. Politicians, coaches, CEOs, religious leaders, activists – they are all part of our realities somehow, so make sure to observe and learn as much as you can.
Build yourself up with knowledge and people
What are the areas in your personal, academic or professional life that need improvement? Where do you lack confidence? From public speaking, doing charts on Excel to making new friends - know how to fill that gap. We tend to avoid the difficult tasks or areas in our lives, to deflect and focus only on our best skills and knowledge. However, good leaders must be self-aware and understand their weaknesses and strengths in order to lead others. Talk to people around you: invite leaders or just people you admire to a café, pick their brains - find a mentor and
, go back to your essential reads. Surround yourself with people and experiences that will build you up and add value to the areas you are lacking of confidence.
Be proactive in your environment
In order to be a leader, one cannot hide in the shadows. Put yourself out there, volunteer to make a difference. One of the smartest moves early on in your career is to volunteer for a project no one wants to take on. It is a great opportunity to work hard and show your skills. You’ll be able to make your point and learn more by gaining an invaluable experience. Take on a difficult task in your community or neighbourhood; help a family member who is going through a tough time. Every time you step up, other leaders around you will notice and value your proactivity.
Leadership is service
What some leaders fail to understand is that leadership is service. To lead means being able to look around and see what other people/organisations/departments’ needs are and cater to those needs. Make those needs a priority. True, effective leadership cannot be self-serving, entitled or come from a demanding, intolerable place. A real leader must focus on learning and making sure that growth is the goal, and not pursue their own interests. To learn more about Servant Leadership I recommend “Servant Leadership: a journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness” by Robert K. Greenleaf.
I truly believe that leadership is a capability that each of us has within; we just need to take on the opportunities and challenges of everyday life, the best way possible.