What Is A Leader

By F. John Reh, About.com Guide

At the most basic level, a leader is someone who leads other. But what makes someone a leader? What is it about being a leader that some people understand and use to their advantage? What can you do to be a leader? Here's what you need to know and do.

A leader is a person who has a vision, a drive and a commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills to make it happen. Let's look at each of those in detail.

The Leader's Vision

A leader has a vision. Leaders see a problem that needs to be fixed or a goal that needs to be achieved. It may be something that no one else sees or simply something that no one else wants to tackle. Whatever it is, it is the focus of the leaderís attention and they attack it with a single-minded determination.

Whether the goal is to double the company's annual sales, develop a product that will solve a certain problem, or start a company that can achieve the leader's dream, the leader always has a clear target in mind. This is a big picture sort of thing, not the process improvement that reduces errors by 2% but the new manufacturing process that completely eliminates the step that caused the errors. It is the new product that makes people say "why didn't I think of that", not just a toaster that lets you select the degree of darkness of the toast. Edison did not set out to build a better candle, he wanted to find a whole new way to illuminate the darkness. That's the kind of vision a leader has.

The Drive To See It Through

It is not enough to just have a vision. Lots of people see things that should be done, things that should be fixed, great step forward that could be taken. What makes leaders different is that they act. They take the steps to achieve their vision.

Is it a passion for the idea, an inner sense of drive, or some sense of commitment? Whatever it is, it is the strength that lets leaders move their vision forward despite all the obstacles, despite all the people saying it can't be done, it's too costly, we tried that before, or a dozen other excuses. The true leader perseveres and moves forward.

Trait And Skills A Leader Must Have

There are things that set leaders apart from other people. Some people are born with these characteristics. Others develop them as they improve as leaders. These are not magic bullets. They are things you can do and be if you want to be a leader.

Traits Of A Leader

There are as many traits of a leader as there are lists of what makes a leader. Here are the fundamental traits of a leader from my perspective:

  • Has integrity. People have to believe that you are pursuing your dream because it's the right thing to do, not just because you are ego driven.
  • Is a people person. Understands the differences that make people unique and is able to use those individual skills to achieve the goal.
  • Is positive. A leader encourages and rewards people and makes you want to do it and do it right. A leader is not a negative person and doesn't waste time and effort telling everyone what they're doing wrong.

Leadership Skills

Beyond the personal traits of a leader, there are specific skills someone must master if they want to be a leader.

  • Effective communication - it's more than just being able to speak and write. A leader's communication must move people to work toward the goal the leader has chosen.
  • Motivation - a leader has to be able to motivate everyone to contribute. Each of us has different "buttons". A leader knows how to push the right buttons on everyone to make them really want to do their best to achieve the leader's goal.
  • Planning - the leader has a plan to achieve the goal. He/she doesn't get too bogged down in the detail, thatís what managers are for, but rather uses a high level plan to keep everyone moving together toward the goal.

Bottom Line

Leaders dream dreams. They refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving those dreams. They are realistic, but unrelenting. They are polite, but insistent. The constantly and consistently drive forward toward their goal. You can be a leader. You will be - when it matters enough to you.

http://management.about.com/od/leadership/a/whatisaleader.htm


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