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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Do You Know What it Takes to Become a Leader?

Andy Stuart

In defining leadership, experts regularly publish articles focusing on the most important traits of leaders. However, in this discourse, a significant gap exists on the various processes and activities one engages in to become a leader. To become a leader, individuals must develop leadership awareness, engage in leadership education and reflect upon their personal development.
Three Things Everyone Should Know about Becoming a Leader:
1. Leadership awareness occurs with engagement in our community. It is from these experiences where we start to formulate broad ideas about leadership. Unfortunately, we are likely to gain an understanding of what ineffective leadership looks like as we are more in tune with behaviours or actions that offend us.  Conversely, when you do experience the exceptional leader this is your opportunity to take notes – what precisely is it they do so well?
2. Leadership education builds upon the broad ideas gained during leadership awareness. Education does not have to be a formal degree or diploma. In fact, the most effective method is personal engagement with leadership articles, books, websites, blogs and workshops. Ultimately, what matters most is a desire to learn and gaining exposure to an array of leadership philosophies.
3. Reflection is critical to becoming a leader. The ability to honestly evaluate your own actions, decisions and behaviours and acknowledge external feedback is the key to moving from leadership education to being a leader.  All of the knowledge or wisdom in the world without self-awareness is for naught.  
Three Myths about Leadership:
Myth #1: Natural leaders are born with specific personality traits destined for leadership.
Reality: No one is born a leader. True leaders are continually aware of their words and actions, engage in ongoing education and constantly reflect upon their leadership.
Myth #2: Rigorous education leading to a degree in leadership alone can create a leader.
Reality: Education is only one component of creating a leader. As there are no natural born leaders, everyone must learn leadership but without awareness and reflection the learned material may sit idle or be misapplied.
Myth #3: Once you are recognized as a leader that is the end of your developmental journey.
Reality: No one is perfect and even those who are considered great leaders need to be aware, learn and reflect in their quest for self-improvement.
Further reading:
Day, D.V., Fleenor, J.W., Atwater, L. E., Sturnm, R.W., & McKee, R.A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63-82.

Andy Stuart is a police officer in British Columbia and recently graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Victoria.

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