Are you a natural leader?
The question is one that will no doubt haunt you if you have recently been trust into a position of leadership.
You have worked hard, and your talent and dedication has finally been recognized. The role you’ve been promoted to is one of enormous responsibility. Your duties will include leading a large group of people.
Until now, you have concerned yourself exclusively with the details of technical matters on the various projects you’ve been assigned to. You have only wanted to do a good job—for your team and for your own sense of professional honor and integrity.
Many people say they don’t care about promotion and that they’re not working solely for it. In your case, it is actually true. The thought of moving into a role of authority never crossed your mind.
Your promotion is nevertheless in the offing. Soon people will look to you for answers. You will be constantly consulted, petitioned, and solicited for advice and direction. You have never seen yourself as a leader. You have not given much thought about what it means to you.
Now, for the first time, you have to do so.
Leadership is partly about competence; you must know enough about the technical aspects of the work carried out by your team to make good strategic decisions about it. It is also about character and temperament.
You must understand yourself if you are to be a good leader—that is, an effective one. You must know the strengths and weaknesses of your character as it relates to work. You must define yourself as a person and, perhaps most importantly, as an executive responsible for the results produced by others.
The latter is often called a leadership style. It may be more accurately called a leadership ethos, as it deals mostly with the values that will guide you and those working for you.
You will probably find your new position stressful, even overwhelming at times. Since you have never been in such a situation, nor even thought much about looking at those who have and using them as models, you will be starting from scratch.
This is hard for anyone to do. However, a bit of introspection, hard thinking, and learning from the lived experience of being in the role will, over time, help you forge a much stronger identity as a leader.
Indeed, the most important thing to keep at the forefront of your mind is that you will not master your new position overnight. You can go into the role with a clear sense of the standards you will hold everyone to. But you will not understand how this works out in practice until you are actually in the job. Only then will you be able to giver sharper, clearer, more exact and precise advice, guidance, and direction.
The need to fuse professional competence, ethical principle, and practical experience is why I have always believed that the best leaders are made, not born. There is no such thing as a natural leader. You, like everyone else, has the potential to be an effective leader. It is a matter of personal will, not biological accident.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.