Are you really a Leader?

Are you really a Leader?

Image courtesy of jscreationz at

Are you really a Leader? 

By Mark Wager

In business the word “Leadership” is everywhere. You can’t read a business book or even a job description without the need for Leadership being blasted everywhere. While everyone agrees that not only is Leadership important  it is vital for any organisation to succeed, yet so many people don’t know what leadership is. They do have a vague idea and usually consider themselves leaders yet when pushed, struggle to understand what leadership really is.  As a result there are a lot of people who consider themselves leaders but are far from it.

The meaning of leadership has been debated for thousands of years. In fact historians found philosophical writing dating back from Plato in 380 B C, in which he explored what qualities distinguish an individual as a Leader. Nowadays there are still many interpretations of leadership but they are all derived from the same core definition.

Leadership is the ability to influence people in order to achieve a common objective.

A lot of people get confused between what is a Leader and what is a Manager.  This is understandable and for many years these terms were commonly interchangeable but they are very different. While leadership is the ability to influence people in order to achieve a common objective, Management is the responsibility and control over people and resources in order to achieve an objective.  At first glance the definitions seem similar but they are in fact every different. The word ‘Management” comes from the Italian word “maneggiare” which means “to handle." Management is a position while leadership is not, management is focussed on control while leadership is focussed on empowerment. Managers have direct reports while leaders have followers.  Managers have plans while leaders have visions. In order to be successful you need to have a mixture of management and leadership skills but it is the leadership skills that are the skills required to produce results that will far exceed anything that you could imagine.

Management is the responsibility and control over people and resources in order to achieve an objective

If you want to be a Leader then these are the competencies that you need to focus on:

Self awareness

Today say goodbye to the child you were yesterday and say hello to the adult you will be tomorrow

The first step of any leader is to know themselves and be aware of how they act and react to situations and people. It has always surprised me just how many people call themselves leaders but lack any trace of self-awareness – they offend people, react in inappropriate ways and find any task that involves adapting their behaviour to suit the audience almost impossible. If you want to be a leader then spend time with yourself, reflect and get to know yourself.

Integrity and honesty

The key to success is living by a code of honour until it becomes instinct with a passion to succeed greater than life itself

A Manager gains respect from his direct reports partly by actions and secondly by  position. As a leader, position is irrelevant so the respect your followers have in you will come from how they see you as an individual. It is essential that you do everything with a high level of integrity and honesty. Some people will always believe you no matter what you say but the majority of people will only believe what you say when they start believing in you.

Share your vision

A vision creates a story for the world to see but it is passion that gives that vision shape with colour, sound and life.

While a Manager controls people and resources, a Leader will influence people in order to achieve. A Leader must be able to share with everyone a vision is being formed by passion. People need to see not only the story that vision creates but they need to see where they fit within that story. Never forget to explain the “why” before you do anything else.

Communicate effectively

If people don’t understand you then try again but this time look through the eyes of the listener to see how they view the world

A technical skill that is vastly underestimated is the ability to adapt communication in a way that ensures that the listener understands the message in the exact way as it was intended. During my time as Manager, over twenty years I would estimate that approximately 90% of all issues between staff and Managers were down to miscommunication. This is a huge topic that I cover in more detail in other articles but trust me when I say if you are not training to communicate better then you are not training to be a leader.

Create more leaders

A leader does not create a legacy through  actions of their own but by the actions of the people that they inspire.

The essence of a good Leader is to influence people to achieve a common goal which is exactly what you want your followers to do. In effect as a Leader your aim is to create more leaders. Think about it,  what is a Leader without any followers? Just a lonely person with a dream. Create an environment for people to make decisions, to be innovative and to progress. Do this and you will create an environment for new leaders.

I want to finish with one of my favourite quotes. It is a quote that when I was younger changed my views on the world and how I fitted within it. I was a young Manager of a Shoe Shop and I was researching as much as I could about how I could become a better Manager and I came across this quote from Lao Tsu, a Chinese philosopher who over 2,000 years ago defined leadership and made me want to become a Leader.

"To lead people, walk beside them ...

As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.

The next best, the people honor and praise.

The next, the people fear;

and the next, the people hate ...

When the best leader's work is done the people say,

"We did it ourselves!"


This article is taken from the book "Elite Leadership" by Mark Wager. To purchase clink on the picture below

About the Author:

Mark Wager is New Zealand's leading Leadership Coach. To contact Mark regarding Leadership Coaching or MBTI courses, Team Building please use the enquiry form below


Posted: Wednesday 3 April 2013


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