Leadership is a much talked about and desired trait that is seemingly becoming necessary to excel in all areas of life.It is quite different from management, even though managers need leadership skills and leaders need managerial skills. If a manager has to ensure that the team is moving up the ladder, a leader keeps in mind that the ladder is aligned to the right wall. However, a right perception about leadership and a right kind of inculcation of leadership skills is the need of the hour. It is commonly observed that ‘how to acquire leadership skills’ has become a beaten topic but how to become a true leader who is remembered through the scale of time and who leaves a positive mark on others, is still less explored. For this, let us first understand leadership from a different and ethical perspective.
# Stick to ethical standards
The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a football field, in an army, or in an office.For instance, if I choose to be honest, I will still be honest even if the whole world behaves dis-honestly. It is because I have chosen this virtue because I like it; I had never chosen the virtue because others wanted me to. So then, why should I abandon it just because others are not following it?! Therefore, a leader is self- driven, when it comes to setting and following standards.
# Translate vision into reality
A leader establishes direction by developing a vision. Management consists of implementing the vision and strategy provided by leaders, coordinating and staffing the organization, and handling day-to-day problems.
Also, no doubt that a leader has to bea visionary. But he also has the capacity to translate vision into reality, without which the visions do not have a real meaning. The vision that a leader has created is the greatest driving force for him to propel in any sort of situation. There is absolutely nothingthat can hold back a leader from achieving his goals. Or rather, it is one who has this capacity, actually a leader.
# Influence with humility
Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. A leader is in a position where he has a large area of influence on the people who are down the line. Therefore, leaders are people who, by their actions, influence a group of people to move toward a common or shared goal. His each and every action is being followed. It is said: “Others do as they see us doing” or “Values or ethics are not taught, they are caught”. With this awareness, comes great responsibility and with this responsibility comes great humility.
# Relational leadership Vs. Positional leadership
Also, a leader is respected by people from their heart. As it has been already said, leadership is not a designation in the hierarchy but a position in the hearts of others. People follow a leader because they want to and not just because they have to. This is what we know as ‘relational leadership’ in contrary to the orthodox ‘positional leadership’. When the heart accepts, the mind opens and then it takes very little of a leader’s time and energy to mobilize its team to achieve a goal. Such leaders become immortal in the history and the minds of all people.
# Facilitative Leadership Vs. Authoritative leadership
These are another 2 types of leadership skills. In the case of facilitative leadership, a leader helps the team explore their full potential and also the best way out to deal with a situation, rather than spoon feeding them with the solution of what should be done and what should not be done. A leader who facilitates always remembers that there might be better ways of doing things and believes his team to bring up that solution. This gives room for innovation. Of course, time limits and productivity are not kept at stake but there cannot be a better way of ensuring highest quality and maximum productivity than making the team the 1st stakeholder of the task and its success.
# Courageous and seeker of the Truth
“In moments of crisis, the leaders emerge”
To become a true leader, one has to be independent in his thinking and doing. If one follows what the world is thinking and doing, one cannot be a leader and is certainly a follower of the trend in the world. Thus, to be a true leader, one needs to be innovative and a free thinker. He must be courageous to pave his own path, take charge pf situation under crisis and go against the stream for the right cause. But what is the right cause? There may be different definitions of right and wrong in the same scenario, depending on an individual’s perception. So, the be truly righteous, one has to be aligned to the ever-right philosophy, which is the ‘truth’.
# Understanding oneself
A leader demonstrates extraordinary skills in dealing with situations, which requires of him, use of his full potential. But one can use his full potential only when one is aware of it. Hence, a leader is the one who understands his strengths and limitations and stands out in the crowd based on his skills. A leader is aware about the self and knows how to motivate himself. He knows his powers and also when to use them and how to use them.
Moreover, a leader is also aware of his limitations. Just as when one is aware of the pothole on road, one can be more cautious to avoid it and continue his journey without being affected by it, until it is mended. Similarly, knowing one’s weakness allows a leader to avoid falling in it and gradually working on it in order to overcome it.
# Understanding others
“You are going to change your people but do you know them and do you love them?”– Mother Teresa
You can’t solve what you don’t know! A leader does not necessarily have to be a Mr. Know It All but has to certainly know or understand the people he is leading. The best way to understand your team member is to, at one time or another, be in their footsteps and remember what it is like! There’s a saying that says “To be a good leader is to be a good follower”. That’s because we can only truly understand what they are experiencing if we ourselves have experienced it! Of course, we don’t need to have lived every single experience that they did, but we need to have enough experience to be able to generalize their emotional state.
In addition to it, a leader recognizes the specialty of people around and creates opportunities for them to leverage it. A leader must know what a person in his team can do and what he cannot do. If a person is given a task which he cannot accomplish by himself, the task is bound to meet failure. So, to assign the right task to the right person, is a leader’s responsibility. Also, to enable each person in the team to develop and ensure that all skill sets in the team and in each person is met, is also a leader’s responsibility. In order to be able to do so, a leader has to first understand each team player.
# Approachable, but with High Self Esteem
In the time of need, it is always a leader who is looked up to as he is always approachable. If we feel that people approach us only when they are in need and are thus being mean to us or using us for their benefit, it is because of a lower self- esteem. Useful things are often to be used. Whereas, things that are not brought in use are usually the discarded or useless ones. So, to be able to help others in the times of their need or to be useful for others doesn’t lower our self- esteem, rather is a mark of greater versatility and flexibility, honor and respect. It is only when we don’t value this side of ours, others demean us.
Another reason to feel dis-respected in such a case is our expectations. One who expects respect or support from others, cannot really stand by his own and hence, cannot be a true leader.
# Selfless & Service Motive
A leader is there to serve everyone and never feels burdened in doing so, neither expects anything in return. Service of all, is a natural and effortless way of dealing for a leader. It is by this virtue, humility cultivates in a person and he becomes worthy of respect.
Moreover, a good leader always shares successes i.e. he takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit as he is not hunting after short term appreciation but cementing long term relationships and sustenance as a leader. This can be developed by making a room in the hearts of the team players by being selfless, involving them at every step and standing with them in facing all that comes their way.
# Clarity & Transparency leading to Compassion, Trust& Accountability
True leader ensures clarity of communication and transparency of intentions. It is not necessary to disclose all the confidential matters to everyone, but at least let the team understand clearly what and why it has to be done at their end and in that manner. When the mission and goals of the team are clearly and transparently communicated to the team players and there is no hidden agenda in the execution, the leader wins the trust of the team. This also develops a sense of joint responsibility for the progress of a project or growth of an organization. In this way, strategically, a leader makes his project theirs! And just like him, they won’t accept failures.
More so, the clarity of mind of the leader leads to openness in behaviour with others. This further leads to compassionate listening to the verbal and non-verbal expressions of the team members, subordinates or clients without judgment or condemnation of any sort. And when we are talking about communication, a leader doesn’t forget to invite open suggestions and constructive feedback from the floor so that everyone involved gets to share their thoughts and opinions- this further enhances the accountability and responsibility of the team members.
# Small is big- Value everything!
Leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. Neither it is about how much have you done. It is more about how much more impact you could create with the small things you did. Leadership isn’t so much about the big things, big events, big moments and big recognitions. It is all about consistently recognizing the ‘small’ things because over time the small things become the big things, events, moments.
Moreover, a good leader never fails to recognize the small achievements of the team players and spares out time to connect with them personally and express genuine appreciation. This personal touch, maybe for a short while, creates a big impact on the minds of others and could be the pace maker for the accelerating the progress of the team.
# Always a Learner, always an Innovator
A good leader is in a constant growth mode and learning is the bedrock of progressing. He never repeats the same day twice! He strives to seek new experiences and he is in a constant self-introspection mode.
A leader is always open to new ideas and ways to do things. It doesn’t mean that a leader is a copier, but he always notices and learns from the specialities of others, those who are ahead of him and those who are lagging behind.
# Mature in dealing with criticism and praise
A leader doesn’t work for praise and so is not affected whether he receives it or not. Praise is not his destination. So even if he receives it, he doesn’t rest there and deals with it with maturity. He takes criticism as a means to improve and praise as responsibility to sustain. More than a sense of appreciation, it is this sense of responsibility that makes him achieve more and sustain what has already been achieved.
# Master Consciousness & Leading by Example
Leadership is synonymous to Master Consciousness, but the way it is perceived is different. A leader is sometimes mistaken as a master who instructs. But a leader is someone who leads by example and transforms the ‘saying’ into ‘doing’. He is a master of his thinking, his words and actions. He can never blame the situation or people for his actions or reactions as doing so is a victim consciousness. He sets the trend right by being a master and not a victim. For this, a leader needs rock- strong determination that cannot be shaken by circumstances, people, failures etc.
# Inner Powers
Certain powers are required by a leader to execute leadership.
o Catching Power
A leader requires the powers to execute the task or get it executed, but before that he needs the power to identify the right opportunity, the right resource to accomplish the opportunity and the right time to do so. This power of a leader can be understood as a ‘catching power’. Just like in a cricket match, a lost catch can lead to a serious loss of victory, similarly, every situation is like an opportunity to catch for a leader and a lost catch can be irreplaceable.
o Decision- making Power
After the opportunity is taken, a leader has to make a right decision so as to encash the opportunity. In this regard, it is important to exercise the judgment power or decision- making power. Consider, that you are travelling on a highway and instead of taking a right turn, you continue to go further on the highway. After a while, you realize that you have gone further ahead by not taking the right turn. You may ask someone about the right way to your destination, but it is not necessary that the person you are consulting knows the right way. After a few iterations, you might find a person who is well aware about the place you seek to land and tells you the point on highway from where you can take a ‘U’-turn or follow another route. Thank God it was a highway! Even though much of time has been wasted in going wrong without realizing that you have gone wrong, then in realizing that you have gone wrong, then finding the right person who can guide us on the right path, and then going to the point from where we can come on track to reach the right destination and then finally coming and proceeding on the right track. However, in life, there might not be a ‘U’-turn or chance to go back. Therefore, a decision taken by a leader could be a decision for a lifetime.
Usually, we look for immediate or short term benefits while taking a decision or making a judgement and either don’t look for, or understand/ realize the long term benefits. This ‘myopia’ can cause leadership hazards in real life situations. Thus, in order to take this right decision, a leader must have great foresight that understands the difference between short term and long term benefits and makes a judgement by proper evaluation of both.
o Power to Face
Along with the power to take the right decision, a leader requires enormous power to face the result of the decision or sustaining on the right decision too, which requires much more power than to just take a decision at once.
o Controlling Power
It is desired by a leader that the team remains in order or control not only when he is present to look after the order, but also in his absentia- which can only be brought in action when self- control is infused in every individual. And to so, a leader must know what it takes to earn this self- control. Thus, a leader must have enough controlling power. Controlling power doesn’t have much to do with controlling others than it has to do with controlling the self and enabling others to learn and exercise this self- control. Using this power, he can control his thoughts, his perceptions, his feelings, his words, his actions and reactions. Only when he knows how to deal with himself, can he deal with the rest of the world and bring it order.
Moreover, every external authority, which comes naturally to a leader, has to be supplemented with a balance of inner power. If authority or power isn’t executed with inner powers, it might lead to development of ego, resulting in a roadblock for the success of a leader.
# Open minded and Intuitive
While a leader must have a learning attitude and excellent listening skills, through which he is able to listen and understand what the words and minds of his people or team mean; he must also have a great intuition. A leader always believes in creating more leaders and thus gives equal opportunity to everyone in the team to share their views and give opinions. Also, being open minded makes a leader available to all and soon earns trust and respect of his team. However, it is of utmost importance for the leader to develop a strong and sharp intuition, which always guides the leader and helps him choose the right opinion. While he is open to new ideas and ways to doing things, his intuition always guides him and warns against any wrong intensions or decisions.
Integrity for a leader is like water for life. It is not just essential for a leader, but also indicative of true leadership. It has been a common trait to all the great leaders that the world has seen. Integrity can be understood as:
o The state of being whole and undivided- Sometimes we are unable to understand ourselves completely and hence become dependent on the images/ labels/ perceptions of what others hold for us. We start believing in what they believe of us. Due to this, much of our identity remains unexplored. Under such circumstances, we start comparing, hiding, proving our identity- that we are better than others, without even realizing that this is an incomplete as well as adulterated identity. This makes us become dependent on short term achievements and materialism to remain ‘on the top’ while the depths of our identity still remain unexplored. For a leader, it is thus important to know, believe and become his true and whole self so that he is not left at the mercy of illusions of short term success and the opinions of others about him, and can be secure of his identity, which is not as temporary as this body or name/ fame/ position/ materials acquired by this temporary identity; but as permanent as the energy which is the driving force within this body, which is intrinsically pure, powerful and complete, if understood and manifested in its true sense.
o The quality of being uncompromisingly honest and having strong moral principles- We all have a certain code of conduct and value system which we believe is right. But sometimes because we fail to recognize the strength of that value or fail to use it as our power or feel that no one else values those values, we tend to give up and adopt unethical means as shorter ways to reach our destination. But it is also true, as we approach nearer to our destination by following these unethical means, we are either hallucinated by the illusion of success or the real destination seems drifting farther away. Undoubtedly, a leader must always support what is right, whether or not others are supporting it. Here, we must remember that we chose our values because we liked them and wanted to abide by them; not because we wanted others to praise us for that value or follow the same. So, why should we give up those values now if others are not abiding by them or following them. They are ‘my’ values and to sustain them is ‘my’ responsibility.
It is said that initially you have to support your values and ethics so that later in life they may emerge strong to support you at the time of crisis or tests of life. For instance, if one has remained honest for his whole lifetime, under any and every circumstance, then during the hard phase of life, his image of being an honest person, which has helped him earn the trust of all, will safeguard him from any undue allegations and gather the support of those who have secured their trust in him. And at that point of life, it feels as if it was truly worth living by that value throughout life.
# Detached involvement
As a leader, one has to be aware of each and every proceeding in the team, has to have the knowledge of whatever is going on in the team. Only then will he be able to understand and develop better means to do the same task and also solve the issues, if any, in the team. But along with this ability comes the necessity of remaining unaffected by the ups and downs. This quality of value of a leader is known as ‘detached involvement’. If the leader starts getting mentally and emotional affected by issues within the team, loses his nerves out of anger or fear, feels the pressure of the problem, then much of his time and energy will be lost bearing the mental and emotional burden and further more time and energy will be needed in coming back to the normal level; while during the time of such crisis, demonstration of extra-ordinary skills was required.
Thus, this value reflects the compassionate, sensible, responsible and humane side of the leader, who is strong enough to support his team by remaining mentally and emotionally detached or unaffected by the effect and pressure of people and situations.
The smallest but the most important step in this regard would be to be a leader of the self at the first place. That is, to be able to go to the root of all programming or right and wrong, truth and false, to do or not to do or what to do, the home to all the perceptions, the inventory of all the ethics and the manufacturing unit of all the feelings of ego and self-esteem, courage, compassion, trust, accountability, etc. There one can find out under the layers of one’s own personality, that ‘Who I really am?’. It is to connect with one’s true self, which doesn’t hold on to any label of leader or superior and gives us a basic understanding of the root of all behaviours. It is certain that not all of us who are leaders or aspire to become one, have all of these and other qualities that make a person a leader. But it is equally certain that we do have some or the other combination of these. If only we have a means to build up on these values or qualities, it would not be difficult for us to acquire the others, as these values or qualities are complementary to each other. More-so, they are our intrinsic virtues, locked deep within the layers of acquired personality, which we have chosen to adopt to suit the external environment and ensure the survival of the fittest, giving rise to never ending competition. Whereas, a big question remains unanswered- whether we are holistically fit enough? And is our purpose merely to survive or to excel?
Spirituality provides us a way to explore answers to many of such questions. It is a natural way to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others, which includes knowing our strengths and short-comings. If while walking on a road, we are aware of the route, it will help us to reach our destination without mistake, in the shortest and easiest way. Also, when we know the route and condition of the road well, we are also aware of the potholes on the road. This knowledge helps us avoid those potholes until they are filled and repaired, and we may reach our destination safely. Similar is the boon that spirituality provides us. It not only helps us sharpen our qualities to achieve excellence in whatever we do, while otherwise we would have been busy in trying to acquire those qualities not knowing that we had ourselves locked them up within, but also makes us aware of our limitations, so that we don’t end up triggering them in situations where they could lead to our serious loss. Meanwhile, practise of Rajyoga Meditation allows us to fill- up or repair our inner defects and convert them into our strengths, sculpting a good and able leader.Rajyoga Meditation is a tool that joins all these dots and helps us make sense of our own needs, feelings, attitudes, personality and our own actions. Appreciating the fact that we are all units of an organization, the society, or the ecosystem, once we are able to decode ourselves by keeping aside the hat of a leader, we are ready to connect to others at a human level. And this strikes the common chord, preparing a leader to be all set to understand his team, give them space, get involved in the errors and successes and know how to deal with their hearts and minds.