What does it mean to be a leader? And can anyone be a leader? These are questions I’ve been asked a lot in school, interviews and workshops but until now I didn’t really have a definite answer. Leadership is a complex trait and it’s far more than “guiding a group of people.”
Leadership is, in my opinion, someone who has a desire to contribute, who can recognize the skills of others and use those in conjunction to their own and someone who can influence others in every direction. What does it mean to influence others in every direction? It means that you have 360 degrees of influence. According to John Maxwell, a renowned speaker, author and pastor, to have 360 degrees of influence means you can “lead up, lead across, and lead down.” Most people are good at one or the other, but great leaders can be influential at all levels.
Leadership comes in all shapes, sizes and ranks. Yes I said ranks. While I used to think you had to be of some importance or have some high title attached to your name for people to consider you a leader, I don’t believe this to be true today. Leaders don’t wait until they reach the top to become influencers, the great ones in fact, find opportunities to lead wherever they are. Maxwell says, “You don’t have to be held hostage to your circumstances or position.” So really you do not have to be the CEO to have influence you just have to have a desire to make things happen. You have to want to add value to the organization and those within it.
One unique way you can allow value to be added from all levels within your organization is to measure the success of your leadership by conducting 360 degree reviews. Not only can anyone within your organization be a leader, but with 360 degree reviews they can also offer constructive feedback to their mentors. This gives you insight into how your senior leaders are performing as you can report on their competencies on teamwork, job knowledge, their leadership style, how good they are at delegating and discover how they are creating a motivating environment. The 360 degree review process is in addition to performance reviews, helping to improve the quality and engagement among leaders in your organization.
We are our own biggest fans and yet our greatest distractions. Personally, I know I am capable of doing great things and I have a lot of great ideas I would love to share, but sometimes I find myself holding back because the little voice in my head is telling me, “You’re not in a position to make that decision” or “give it time when you make it to the top you will have control then.” What are we waiting for? I mean who says you can’t be in control now. Leadership has no ceilings, walls or floors so don’t limit yourself. If you have the desire to contribute and add value then be proactive because waiting for an opportunity to come along could take ages. The time is now.