A few weeks ago, my colleagues at EPIPEOPLE CONSULTANTS did an Ask Us Anything on the topic of “Leadership” on Instagram. Some of the questions were really good and deserved a long form answer. So here goes!
1. Are leaders born or made? If you aren’t born a leader, can you train to be one?
Leaders are made, not born. People can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation. Leadership is a set of skills that can be learned by training, perception, practice and experience.
While it sounds like a big daunting thing, it’s actually quite commonplace. If you have ever organized a meal with friends, or planned a surprise party, you have led before.
You don’t have to wait for someone to give you authority before you practice leadership. NGOs and volunteer groups are usually a great place to begin learning leadership in a low pressure environment.
2. How to be a charismatic leader?
There is a segment of people (I style) to whom charisma comes easily and naturally. These are people who light up a room, gets conversations going, and are usually the social glue in a a group.
Can this be learnt or practiced? Of course. Anyone can simply decide to be outgoing and social. It’s not that hard at all. But it might go against your natural grain.
Besides, charisma is over-rated. People might join you for your charisma, but will only stay for your values and consistency.
3. How should a leader deal with people who hate them?
In an ideal world, the people we lead will all admire and revere us. They will trust us with every stand we take, and agree completely with every decision we make.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where even Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela have their critics and people who “hate” them.
I personally think that this is because as human beings, we are more likely to pay attention to our differences than our similarities.
If you are in such a situation, it’s best to find common ground with your “haters”? More often than not, people might not always agree with your actions, decisions and opinions. But you can always find some common ground in belief systems and values.
For example, you might not agree on a specific target that your manager has set, but you might agree that you are both trying to do the best for your company.
4. Best Criteria as a leader?
Leadership is the skill of unifying a set of people towards achieving a common objective or goal.
In some cases, the leader is the one most technically skilled in the tasks. This is true for highly technical and specialized sectors like medicine, law and the military. In these cases, the most important criteria is clarity
Outside of those sectors, however, the most important criteria as a leader is the ability to connect on a deep and meaningful level with their followers. There’s an old saying - “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.
The single most important criteria as a leader is empathy. A very close second is clarity.
The real challenge is - you need to cultivate both of them - at the same time.