Aren’t we all lead­ers?

The better I know myself, the easier it is for me to utilise my strengths and adapt to different situations.

What asso­ci­a­tion comes to mind when we think of lead­ers? Prob­a­bly most­ly the hier­ar­chy in organ­i­sa­tions and posi­tions in com­pa­nies. But lead­er­ship hap­pens in many places. Depend­ing on the inter­pre­ta­tion, we are all lead­ers again and again and con­stant­ly switch between ‘fol­low­ing and lead­ing’. Depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion and our own strengths, we take on respon­si­bil­i­ty, become active and oth­ers fol­low us. This could be on a hike, sim­ply because I know the route and the ter­rain and have checked the weath­er fore­cast. It could be in the kitchen because I have thought about the menu and know the pref­er­ences of my guests. It can be in a meet­ing because I have put togeth­er the agen­da, have an eye on the pri­or­i­ties and the time bud­get and skil­ful­ly incor­po­rate the social aspect of the meet­ing. How­ev­er, how well I suc­ceed in this lead­er­ship is not just based on my exper­tise, but large­ly on how oth­ers per­ceive me.

Suc­cess­ful lead­er­ship, good col­lab­o­ra­tion and pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships are close­ly linked to our own impact on oth­ers. We do not always achieve the desired response or activ­i­ty with our actions. Some­times we express our­selves unclear­ly, oth­er times we over­look impor­tant back­ground infor­ma­tion and, in anoth­er sit­u­a­tion, the per­son­al con­tact that is so impor­tant for my coun­ter­part is miss­ing and sim­ply the ques­tion of well-being. Nobody can guess our actu­al inten­tion behind an action. Espe­cial­ly when we don’t achieve the desired effect, we would do well to go through the sit­u­a­tion again in our minds and reflect on what exact­ly hap­pened. No mat­ter what role I am in — clas­sic man­ag­er or col­league.    

The bet­ter I know myself, the eas­i­er it is for me to utilise my strengths and adapt to dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. Recog­nis­ing your own impact is not that easy. I would have to expe­ri­ence myself. And even then, I only know one reac­tion. But what goes down well with one per­son may be far too much for anoth­er. For one per­son, I may be the con­sci­en­tious and val­ued Excel spread­sheet expert and for anoth­er, the annoy­ing pedant. What comes nat­u­ral­ly to me may inspire or irri­tate some­one else.

So, in order to at least bet­ter assess my effect on oth­ers, I would do well to take a look at myself. How aware am I of my own val­ues, what comes eas­i­ly to me, how do I build trust, which work­ing style suits me, what moti­vates me? What are my strengths and things that I take for grant­ed, such as the con­sci­en­tious prepa­ra­tion of an Excel spread­sheet or the atten­tive and per­son­al ques­tion before explain­ing a task. And where are my stress points, what drains my ener­gy? 

It’s a shame that this dis­cus­sion often only begins when you take on a clas­sic lead­er­ship role. Why not start right away by con­scious­ly lead­ing your­self?  It would be nice if we were aware of our impact on oth­ers and thus had a vari­ety of options.      

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Ruth Bolter

I share my international experiences with people in very different locations all over the world. Making connections where they are not obvious is what inspires me and what I like to make available to others.