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"How do you become a Leader?"

I was delivering a training session on People Development yesterday, and I was asked the question - "How do you become a Leader?"

WOW! Loaded question - especially when I am sitting with a group of departmental heads for a very successful UK based construction company.

I did a quick check and asked the group to put their hands up if they considered themselves leaders - out of the 9 there, no-one put their hands up. I asked the question again, but changed the role to a manager - all nine raised their hands, and in fact 4 of them hesitantly (This is a different matter that I will discuss another day)!

I then asked the question, "How many of you consider yourself to be both, a leader and a manager?"

By now, I wasn't surprised when nobody raised their hands. I never questioned this in the moment, but we started to discuss the definition of a leader, and then the usual differences between a manager and a leader, I also ran a few exercises discussing their chosen leaders (Alex Ferguson, Bob Geldof, Richard Branson, the Queen, Winston Churchill etc.) and the characteristics and behaviours demonstrated by these 'influential' individuals.

Through our many discussions and debates, which I only facilitated, the group gave me some amazing responses; inspirational, challenging, charismatic, trustworthy, knowledgeable, motivational, dependable, successful, assertive, and many many more.

I told them, then, that I would like them to look at their responses, and write down next to each one, a time that they demonstrated this. They all shared moments of their time when they did these things, with a story as to why, a reason as to why and a purpose as to why.

Buddha said "The mind is everything. What you think, you become."

In that moment, 9 people realised that they had become LEADERS - maybe for just a short period of time, but others would have seen them in that role.

A true leader does not always wear the hat of a leader, their roles change at all times as they are learning, managing, stretching, questioning - always evolving.

One definition of being a leader is: A person that holds a dominant or superior position at a given time and at the same time exercise a high degree of control, engagement or influence over others.

The secret to being a great leader, is in fact, not being one at all! It's about being you, using your skills, knowledge, experience, positive attitudes and influential behaviours.

So, in answer to the question that was asked "How do you become a Leader?"

You don't. You only become a leader when others recognise your abilities, qualities and your successes.

I always say:

If I can INSPIRE them, they will ASPIRE to achieve

Jay Acharya - Director (Aspire Consulting and Training Ltd UK)

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