Leadership is a topic that I am very interested in. It’s often mentioned as a desired trait in many job advertisements. You also hear it a lot in our normal life, be it in sports, politics or in office. But what is it exactly?

I used to think that leadership referred to being in the position of authority, talking the loudest and telling people what to do. Fortunately, my view on leadership changed and evolved over the years.

In my opinion, a great leader usually does the following:

  • Grow the team by giving directions, assistance and especially increasing responsibilities. I believe that deep down, every person craves for personal growth. Given tools and meaningful challenges, each of us will be glad to work beyond normal hours and go above & beyond. Some managers just look at their staff as somebody who does the dirty work and mundane tasks
  • Distribute credit when things go right. How deflating must it be when your effort doesn’t get recognized?
  • Take blame when things go wrong. If all that you do in the position of authority is to reap rewards and point fingers, how can others follow you?
  • Cultivate trust and transparency

Sure, great leaders also have other great qualities such as:

  • Technical expertise – The Internet is a powerful tool. You can learn a lot, even tribal knowledge by yourself. If you consistently do it day by day, you will likely have the same or probably more technical knowledge than some senior colleagues who don’t put in the same work as you do. Remember the power of compounding interest when applied to knowledge
  • “Big picture” outlook – Truthfully, some have a better long-term view on things than others. Nonetheless, in some cases, the lack of access to information also plays a role here. A junior staff with long-term perspective but no access to information can hardly make a suggestion as good as a C-level executive, can she?
  • Decisiveness in decision-making – This is different from one person to another. It is easy to say but exceedingly difficult to prove
  • Communication – you don’t need to be a CEO to be required of communication skills. It’s in almost every job ads.

If you need a model, I’d suggest the character Harvey Specter in the series Suits. He grows Mike professionally by giving him more and more challenging cases. When things go wrong, Harvey takes the blame in front of clients and doesn’t throw Mike under the bus. When things go right, he makes sure his subordinate gets the credit financially and position-wise. Finally, there is trust as well as loyalty between them. This clip resonates with me very well.

Jon Snow in the battle with wildlings before he made Lord Commander or Tyrion in the Black Water Bay battle also serves as examples of leadership.

In short, I don’t believe that titles make leaders. On the contrary, leaders make titles. Regardless of where you are on the hierarchy, you can be a leader.

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