Leadership is understood as the ability some people have to guide or command other people's actions. It is more than just that, though.
What is a leader? A leader is a person who, within a group, stands out in such a way that he soon becomes attractive, admirable, to others. Leaders do not always command, but they always summon. This, because true leaders are followed because of what they are and not because of what they say or pretend to be.
Circumstantial leadership (assuming someone is a leader just because he has a prominent —and most of the times temporary— position in a given speciality, like a superstar soccer player) is not leadership. It is just fashion.
On the contrary, leaders usually command in a spirit of coordination rather than of subordination; know themselves as part of a group and not as their owners. A leader knows he has duties towards his group and tries to fulfil them properly. A leader inspires, specially because he's usually seen doing, planning or pursuing things other individuals would never dare to try.
Needless to say, true leadership has a high share of healthy passion.
Characteristics of real leadership
+ A leader knows himself quite well, both his weaknesses and strong points.
+ A leader summons for personality, not by fear.
+ A leader is supported by strong background knowledge.
+ A leader makes use of a strong common sense.
+ A leader remains stable. He does adapt to the circumstances, but he does not change according to the circumstance.
+ A leader knows how to influence, relax, entertain, motivate, encourage, support, correct or have his people accept the things they cannot change.
+ A leader commits himself his people.
+ A leader has a personal relationship with any and all of his followers.
+ A leader knows how to make use of his people's strengths and weaknesses to achieve the goals they had in mind.
+ A leader does not take advantage of his position for selfish ends. On the contrary, both acknowledgement and rewards are usually for his followers.
+ A leader serves others in the achievement of the objectives, and not the other way round.
+ A leader says, explains and invites to follow; yet does not coerce or blackmail.
+ A leader also corrects, confronts and stops his fellows if they are wrongdoing.
+ A leader teaches his people what to do without him, if necessary.
If you want it in a metaphor, a leader does not go in front of the group expecting to be followed: he goes at the back, shouting his followers all the time, so they can know if they need to go to the left, to the right or just stay where they are. The constant feedback he receives from the group is also crucial to help him serve his role better. In addition, a leader should also count on someone who will serve as spy for him.
Of course, there are occasions in which the leader must go in front of the group and assume the role he's expected to have. A leader knows he has to do this.
The temptations of leadership
Being the leader often means you can move other individuals to do what you ask them to do. This can be tempting, so below you have a list of the most common "leadership temptations" and how to deal with them too.
+ Asking for privileges.
+ Trying to test the limits of the power you've got.
+ Discouraging those who are improving.
+ Discouraging yourself with the first failure or frustration.
+ Absorbing every task by yourself.
+ Abandoning your group in spite of being in charge of it.
+ Overprotecting your followers or blocking their progress.
+ Rejecting simple tasks "because of your status".
+ Getting the majority of the benefits of the group for yourself instead of sharing them with the others.
A bad leader is dangerous to the group. That's why, a leader must learn to:
+ Establish priorities and respect them.
+ Reduce the gap between leader and follower, encouraging every member of the group to take part of the decision-making, or to give his opinion without fears or dependence.
+ Allow his followers to stop him if they feel he is wrongdoing.
+ Keep in mind he has duties and tasks more than power or privileges.
A good leader
+ is astute and smart, because he will have to face lots of unexpected situations.
+ is a friend; and opens a path to help his followers have a better life, encouraging their achievements and correcting their wrongdoings.
+ looks for ways to expand the group without allowing it to get away from its roots.
+ takes care of the mystic or what gave raise to the group.
+ undertakes his duties responsibly, because he knows that any failure will be his fault.
+ is aware that he will not be the leader forever and looks for ways to prolonging the group and his leadership for the future.
Are there requirements for leadership?
I would say yes, but they are few. Leaders are self-confident, attractive, easygoing people. They have good intentions and knowledge of how to achieve the goals, or at least knowledge of what to do to learn how to achieve them.
Leadership is like inaccessible rocks, anyway, eagles can get there, but also snakes. You have to be careful.
Although leadership theory can be taught, leadership comes from the heart. This means it can only be inspired.
What else does a leader need to know?
A leader needs to know that followers have a process in a group: First, they get in and discover it. This is phase one. They learn about the group and decide whether to stay or leave.
If they decide to stay, the second phase is a learning phase. It is usually more 'in the field' than theoretical training, but, yes, it is the stage in which the new followers learn what the group is about, and take its rules and mystic as own.
The third moment is militancy. By then, the follower has stopped learning and is in capacity of doing one of these four things: He can become a full member of the group, even inviting other members to come to it. He can just go away. He can go away and create his own group based on what he learnt. Or he can challenge the leader because he wants to become the leader himself.
Needless to say, a true leader must be ready for that, too.
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