Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thoughts On Leadership

“To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.”
-Harry Truman

In my time away from the working world, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what my next job might be. At some point in my career I would like to be in charge. Whether that comes in my next job or not, I do not know. I have never been a boss. I need to preface everything I say with this statement. Having said that, I have had many bosses, managers, mentors and superiors, and working with and for all of these different people has given me a unique perspective on what it means to be a boss, or more importantly- a leader. Leadership is something that I think most people want to have as a skill. In the many jobs I have applied for, “leadership skills” is one of the many criteria that employers prize in their potential employees. I like to think I have leadership skills, but since I have never been a leader or boss I do not know whether or not it is fair to claim skills I may or may not possess. Usually, skills are only acquired by doing, and I typically agree with this statement, but not in the case of leadership.

Unless you are a self-employed office of one, or have never had a job, you have had a boss or supervisor of some kind. I myself have had more than fifteen bosses or superiors in my life, and I can say without a doubt that a vast majority of them have not been very good. They lacked the all important leadership skills necessary to be in a position of power. It is said that people are “born leaders” and can make being in charge look easy because of their innate skills. I agree that there are some things that we are born with, the ability to lead being one of them. But it is not enough with leadership to rely on your genetic gifts, nor can you simply learn by doing. There is an all important third element that I will talk about in a future blog entry. Until then, try to think about what that critical element might be.

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