LEADER - 6 Letters, 6 Examples, 6 Pieces of Advice
I vividly recall a conversation at work where we were discussing each others’ management approaches, and my colleague exclaimed: “But does she want to be a leader, or a boss?". To me it was obvious even before that a boss and a leader are not the same, but after this conversation I found myself often assessing behaviour from this perspective. What is a true leader, and how do they differ from a boss?
1. L - Listening
While leaders often rise to their positions by making their individual voices heard, true leaders understand the importance of active listening. Besides gaining trust, it also allows for a deeper understanding of situations. The smartest manager I have ever worked with is my current director. I am sure part of his success lies in his listening skills. He knows the right questions to ask (or even not to say a word and just pause), so that the person shares their real thoughts or comes up with the solution by themselves while thinking out loud.
2. E - Empowering
Leaders today often try to empower others by delegating authority and decision-making. Doing this certainly defines an empowering leadership style, but it is not enough. To empower people you need to build their confidence first, to create an environment where they feel safe and provide the relevant tools or knowledge to succeed. I cannot be more thankful to Berta Herrero Estalayo, founder and director of the European Leadership Academy which transforms the lives of many talented young women. With Berta's commitment, participants not only gain digital skills but are also guided and provided with opportunities after graduation.
3. A - Authenticity
Leadership is all about staying true to yourself. Try to lead like someone else and you will fail. People want "real" leadership. Consider Princess Diana of Wales: humble and kind, dedicated to making a difference and sticking to her core values. People quickly fell in love with her, even when she broke royal protocol. She did not wear gloves because she liked to make contact with people while meeting them, put her family before royal duties and spoke openly to the press. By standing up for herself and following her guiding principles, Diana became a role model for many.
4. D - Decisiveness
Leadership is not easy. Leaders must be prepared to make rapid, powerful decisions based on facts. When they are wrong, they will treat it as a lesson and not repeat it. Atlas Shrugged is my favourite book, a great example of persevering despite failures when you believe in something. It tells the story of Dagny Taggart, the bold and decisive Vice President of the railroad company. “If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn”, she said. I highly recommend reading this book to every future leader if they haven’t yet.
5. E - Embracing diversity
True leaders value unique perspectives and backgrounds. They are aware of unconscious bias, create conditions where diverse viewpoints are represented and act as vocal allies. I am thankful to the European Leadership Academy for allowing me to meet Therese Jamaa, former Vice President of Huawei Spain and Vice President of the Spanish Red Cross Foundation. Therese brings diverse perspectives herself: Born in Lebanon, having studied in France, and working in Spain, she speaks more than eight languages and strives to reduce the digital divide among women at risk of exclusion. How happily surprised I was when I met Therese again a few months after the Academy, and she recognised me and showed genuine interest. Empathy: another word starting with “E” and important for a leader.
6. R - Resilience
In a volatile world, resilience is a vital quality for leaders. In addition to maintaining their stamina under pressure and adapting to changes, leaders must build resilience in others by putting their needs first. This article will not be complete without mentioning Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah. Fleeing from war and never expecting to become a queen, she became the world's most prominent Arab woman, as well as a global activist who has bravely faced humanitarian problems. Her progressive female voice has promoted reforms in education and public health, as well as cross-cultural dialogue between the West and the Middle East. Responding strongly to the challenges her people face, she remains humble: “It's an honour and a privilege to have that chance to make a difference—a qualitative difference in people's lives—and it's my responsibility to make the most out of that opportunity."
No doubt, the qualities of a genuine leader are not limited to specific letters. While these are not the only things that make a leader, putting these words of advice into practice can inspire you to pave your own leadership path.