Leadership Is Difficult, But It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

Here is a quote that communicates a profound truth in a simple way.

There are leaders and there are those who lead.

The quote is by Simon Sinek. He is the author of a fantastic book called Start With Why. He also offers his insights in quotable form on Twitter.

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The quote serves as a warning. You might have a leadership position or a leadership title, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a leader. Title and position alone aren’t enough to be effective. In fact, I’d say it this way: Having the title of leader doesn’t make you one anymore than wearing an NBA jersey makes you a basketball player. (Click to tweet that)

I’m not saying we don’t need leadership positions. Of course we do. But the effective leader is one who sees his or her position as a platform and opportunity. The effective leader understands leadership as a verb more than a noun.

It’s difficult to do what leaders need to do, but it doesn’t have to be hard to figure out who a leader needs to be. Simon Sinek explains why people will follow our lead when he says…

Leaders don’t simply have people who follow them; real leaders command a following or a group of people who want to follow you, not because they have to, but because they believe in you. They believe in what you’re doing and where you’re going and they want to be a part of it.

Don’t let the difficulties in leadership discourage you. There are some simple principles that can help. You can develop and grow in your leadership capacity. If you’ve just stepped into a leadership position and wonder if you have what it takes, I hope these principles ease your mind. You can do this! You can become the type of leader people want to follow for all of the reasons Sinek mentions above.

1. Follow first.

I am becoming more and more convinced that effective leaders understand how to be effective followers. Great followers submit to the overall good of the team and the leader. I previously wrote about some ways to follow like a leader. As top-down, autocratic models of leadership fade and new models of shared leadership emerge, it will be crucial for primary leaders to know when to step forward to lead and when to step back and follow.

Are you a good example to others of what a great follower looks like?

2. It takes time.

You don’t become an effective leader in a day, you become an effective leader daily. You build your credibility through the ups and downs. Things like loyalty, trust, and belief take time to grow and develop. There aren’t any shortcuts.

Do you have the discipline necessary to lead well on a daily basis?

3. EQ > IQ

The good news is that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be a good leader. It’s your ability to engage and connect with others that will determine your effectiveness. Good leaders have a sense of the culture and the vibe of the team. They know how to relate well to people. They have common sense and know how to establish common ground with others.

Are you more concerned with whether people think your smart enough or if you care enough?

4. It’s not a secret.

There isn’t one perfect way to be a good leader. There are as many ways to lead as there are leaders. You will discover that things like character, consistency, and clarity are always valuable. Be authentic and you’ll connect much easier with others. Learn to be your best self and you’ll stand head and shoulders above those who try to be someone or something they’re not.

Are you striving to be the kind of person that people want to follow?

5. A title is a platform.

Congratulations on your new leadership title. Unfortunately, that’s not what makes people want to follow you. But your title does open the door for you to do some great things. While it may give you initial credibility, it’s your character that give you lasting credibility. We create titles and positions because they’re necessary to get things done and to move things forward. You don’t get a trophy for having a title. You get recognition because you actually did something worth celebrating.

How can you use the power of your position to serve the needs of others?

6. Prioritize your leadership in the order of who, why, and what.

Who you are as a person is your first priority as a leader. Leadership starts with you. Good leaders grow from the inside out. Your values, your character, your passions – all of these things profoundly effect what you do. Why you’re in leadership is your second priority. Check your motives and make sure you’re in leadership for all the right reasons. What you want to accomplish comes next. Your leadership is necessary because there’s something that needs to be done and there’s a group of people who need to move forward. Everything you do should be in line with who you are and why you’re in leadership in the first place.

Are your priorities in the right order?

7. Check your ego.

It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a leader, it only matters if others call you a leader. The title doesn’t make you better than anyone else. In fact, the most effective leaders make it a point to put the needs of everyone else above their own. They sacrifice for the good of the team. Being a leader isn’t about recognition as much as it’s about responsibility. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky.

What can you do to maintain an attitude of humility in your leadership position?

That’s enough to chew on for now, don’t you think? I know being in leadership can be difficult. But sometimes we make it harder on ourselves because we don’t do the simple things that will make us a leader worth following.

Your comments make this article even better: Is there something you would add to this list, something you’d change, something that came to mind while you were reading?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • http://www.LeaderKnowHow.com Carol Norbeck Hines

    I appreciate two points in particular: it takes time and leadership starts with you. I have found that there is often a gap between what leaders intend to do to develop their leadership and the investment they actually make. Becoming a great leader is a journey – lasting your entire career. It requires new skills and new mindsets from being a contributor. Great leaders continually identify their development needs and it takes focused practice – it won’t just happen. And I always remember to add that learning to be a great leader is challenging AND rewarding! Thanks for a great post!

    • tim milburn

      Hi Carol.
      Thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate you pointing out the challenging/rewarding aspect of this journey.