Over the past several months, we’ve been reminded how quickly the world can change. No business, no industry, no market, and no role is immune to disruption. Many of us are also using this challenging and uncertain time to reflect on our own purpose and how we show up in life.
If you too have been reflecting, and if your reflections lead you to search for personal and professional growth, discovering the leader within you and improving your leadership skills can give you a competitive advantage, because, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a title or be in a C-level role to be considered a leader. Strong leaders exist at all levels—and are highly valued—at every level of business to inspire, engage, and influence their colleagues and stakeholders.
During one of my recent discussions with a senior leader at one of the leading B School, it was highlighted that building leadership skills within the outgoing batches is not the focus as during the initial years of the employment, these management graduates will be at the front line and leadership skills wouldn’t matter. That became the genesis of sharing my perspective and bigger mission on how to help build leadership skill for young talent.
The need for leadership development has never been more urgent. Companies of all sorts realize that to survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, they need leadership skills and organizational capabilities different from those that helped them succeed in the past. There is also a growing recognition that leadership development is a skill expected from all the workers irrespective of the level, working for someone or running their own business. It’s important, therefore, that they be equipped with the relevant technical, relational, communication and leadership skills.
Circumstances shape young employees, and young professionals now face extraordinary circumstances.
As students eager to learn during the lifelong learning process, we are fascinated with the notion of what makes a leader. Why is it that certain people seem to naturally inspire confidence, loyalty, and hard work, while others (who may have just as much vision and smarts) stumble, again and again? It’s a timeless question, and there’s no simple answer. But we have come to believe it has something to do with the different ways that people deal with adversity. Indeed, what can be a better situation to consider than this pandemic, true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances. Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders.
So, there is a way to do this, and the approach is to understand how young professionals without a title can lead themselves, the peers around as they grow in level and their organizations. Leadership pioneer Peter Drucker said, “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” The current situation demands and requires that mindset change that Leadership starts with yourself. By understanding how your mind works, you can lead yourself effectively and eventually understand others and be able to lead them more effectively, and ultimately lead your organizations – “more effectively.” By “more effectively”, it is meant that you are going to tap into your own intrinsic motivation and sense of purpose.
Given the current state of disruption, it calls for aspiring leaders to be humans first: to be mindful, selfless and compassionate and in doing so, to develop the qualities that enable engagement, fulfilment, and meaning – which lead to greater overall success and achieving a joyful experience in anything we do. Javier Pladevall, CEO of Audi Volkswagen, Spain reflected during one of his interviews on Leadership, “Leadership today is about unlearning management and relearning being human.”
In the process to truly discover yourself and the leader within, three mental qualities stand out as being foundational for young people today and leaders of tomorrow – Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion. All these three qualities are closely linked, and they are mutually enhancing. Based on the experience, we would all agree that the three can be learned, practiced, and enhanced.
Mindfulness is about generating greater mental effectiveness, so that one can realize more of his/her potential on both a professional and personal front. It also constructively alters our decisions more from our conscious mind. Effectiveness in this case is the ability to achieve the desired goals, objectives and wishes in life. There are two key qualities of Mindfulness – focus and awareness. The more focused and self-aware we are, regardless of what we do, the happier we become.
Selflessness is the wisdom of getting out of your own way, the way of your people, and the way of your organization to unleash the natural flow of energy that people bring to work. Selflessness combines strong self-confidence with a humble intention to be of service. Selflessness in leadership manifests itself as humility and services, and tame the egos so that it doesn’t hinder the larger interests of the people and the company they lead.
Compassion is the quality of having positive intention for others. It is the intention of being of services to other people’s happiness and the desire to help alleviate their problems. It is the ability to understand other’s perspectives and use that as a catalyst for supportive action. We act compassionately while closely observing the impact of our actions.
Grow Yourself as a Person and eventually the leader within you.
Leading with Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion makes us more human and less leader. It makes us more us and less our title. These skills require a lot of courage and hard work to develop, which will radically transform our own performance both on a professional and personal level, and empower the leader within to shine.
To conclude, I second what Harry M. Kraemer said, “If I don’t know myself, is it possible for me to lead myself? I doubt that. If I can’t lead myself, how could I possibly lead others?”
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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