• You’re either a leader or you’re not

You’re either a leader or you’re not

You’re either a leader or you’re not

12 Feb 2021

Leadership is a quality seen by others in you. One cannot be a leader by saying so or through training.

For me, ‘leader’ is an adjective that is utilized to label someone upon the observation of outsiders.

Let me be clear, for me leadership is a ‘state’; you’re either a leader from birth or you’re not. A leader is a leader regardless of age. A natural state of being, one that is always in effect…

There are no how-to-guides for becoming a leader or for leadership. It can’t be pre-planned: a leader doesn’t say, ‘I should do this if this happens, and I should do this if that happens’. A leader knows what needs to be done ahead of time, and has already taken action.

The alternative is a pseudo-leader, who is unnatural and is unable to inspire mass action.

Of course there are bad leaders, but let’s talk about the good ones.

If it is imperative to provide a definition, then let’s begin with whom we refer to as a ‘leader’.

I guess we can define a ‘leader’ as a person who provides his/her milieu with benefits, who can influence his/her community, and who can put ideas into practice with intelligence and foresight.

A leader is someone who can influence and inspire those around them with their expertise, vision, rhetoric, charisma and other similar qualities.

A leader knows that one can be knowledgeable with the information received from others, but can only be smart with one’s own mind.

A leader asks for advice but makes the final decision all by him/herself, taking full responsibility.

A leader listens to people, and makes the effort to understand.

A leader supports all positive transformation that allows the development of those around them.

A leader is consistent.

Leadership is a characteristic that sounds ‘sexy’ but is very rare to find.

And there are those that pretend to be leaders, those who think they are leaders, and see leaders when they look at the mirror…

There is a good number of people among us who think talking through one’s hat is what it means to be a boss, shouting around is discipline and stating ‘because I said so’ is what it means to be a leader.

Many companies force their employees to attend leadership training. Everyone and their horses are required to show up. The guy who can’t even form a proper sentence is thrust in a group and is asked to lead a debate. And for what? To learn how to lead…

However, as I mentioned earlier, leadership is a quality seen by others in you. One cannot be a leader by saying so or through training.

If training is a must, then guidance training can be given to someone who shows leadership qualities, in order to reveal the other qualities they need to fulfill their potential. I should stress that what I am referring to is ‘guidance’. Because I don’t think there can be a one size fits all leadership training. Training for leadership should be ‘customized’; and even that should be through guidance. The aim should be to provide a step up for the leader, since he/she is the one with the potential.

In short, can one give advice on how to be a leader? I don’t think so. We can describe the qualities of a leader but we can’t make a leader with advice or training.

Let me try to describe what I have in mind when I say leader (of course I can only give examples of company management since I have neither been at war nor have I ever served in government), and what would be important for me if I were a leader.

(When I say leader, I’m not referring to the person who is the top manager. Being a leader is one thing, and being a top manager is another. Top managers can also be leaders, but for me that’s not mandatory, and likewise, leaders may not always be the top managers.)

A leader and his/her colleagues…

The first rule: If I am the leader, I must be the ‘most ignorant man’ around the table. Then I can grow and improve myself, right? Leadership does not require one to know all the answers, but the ability to get the right answers from a good team is an invaluable attribute for leadership. As much as we use our minds to carry on business, we must also use it to bring together smart people who can carry on that business.

At no point whatsoever I would choose to work with cheap labor. You wouldn’t believe the hidden cost of cheap labor.

Employees should be comfortable outside of work so that they can devote their minds to their jobs once they are at work and can happily go back to work every time.

I believe that a leader must be institutionally ambitious but personally humble. Same goes for their colleagues. I feel that it is necessary to assemble such colleagues around in order to progress. Because the important thing is not the ‘people around us’ but the ‘right people around us’.

One must not work with anyone whose competence is questionable. We must not forget that there is not enough money that can make the wrong people do the right thing.

Over time, bringing in great staff members is a necessity, but on the other hand, people who have been trained within the company are also invaluable. You should act with foresight when choosing your employees.

A sense of discipline must be present, but you should never mistake discipline for autocracy. You have to manage the system, not the people.

My father used to say, “If you are an irreplaceable man, you cannot move forward an ‘inch’.” The same is true for our colleagues; save me from those people whose work is disrupted in their absence. On the other hand, people who hire, train and develop colleagues who can even surpass themselves are the ones that matter. Those are the indispensable ones.

As a general rule, we should engage our colleagues with solutions and opportunities, not problems and crises.

Make a point of sharing success and assuming responsibility for failure, and make sure that your colleagues also adopt this mindset. Protecting and retaining them is a whole different story.

Listen to everyone before making a decision, discuss feverishly and with passion, and even ask your friends for their input, but always be the one who makes the final decision.

A leader and processes…

Market research is the process I trust the least. Do you think Steve Jobs developed the iPhone in line with the needs identified through market research? A leader makes dreams come true, while ‘others’ do the market research. A leader is always the one that leads those ‘others’. As the name implies…

There will always be difficult days. There will be blood, sweat and tears; there will be crises, transformations and lack of money… But difficult days help you become stronger.

Just as you don’t leave your car on the side of the road when you run out of gas, and instead go and find a jerry can of gasoline, when you don’t have any money, you will do whatever you can to find it; believe me, you won’t abandon your company.

When you are tired, know that days of rest are near. Personally, my favorite days are the days when I get tired.

I think that a true leader acts with knowledge and learning in times of important transformation and crisis, encourages his/her team and ‘emanates a natural air’ that signals the arrival of success. And this is precisely why we see the impact of a real leader when see the result.

The success, which seems extraordinary from the outside in established systems, is under no circumstances the result of a single action. I urge you to make sure that all processes within your company structure are organic.

Of course, money and profit are important, but they don’t constitute the core of a business. Long-lasting companies do not exist just to generate income.

It is necessary to constantly adapt to the developing conditions of the world, but established structures should always safeguard their fundamental values and objectives. Correctly constructed systems that utilize carefully selected technologies should of course lead the market, but perfunctory practices that are the latest fad should be avoided at all cost.

You will encounter dozens of attractive opportunities and even more offers down the road. The smartest skill is to be able to say ‘no’. Being able to say, “thanks, but no thanks” when confronted with things that seem like opportunities at first, require a different mindset. There will be many more opportunities along the way, but if an opportunity does not fit the structure and concept of the company, even if it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, then it is imperative to stay away. Sometimes the do’s are less critical than the don’ts.

And finally…

A leader and passion…

No work should be done without passion. If not, game over.

A leader and compassion…

One must not pursue something one doesn’t love. If not, it’s game over.