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I believe great leaders are made, not born. I also believe our life experiences, combined with our attitudes, towards things in general, are what make us the people we are. In my opinion, what sets great leaders apart from all others is the fact that they have an optimistic outlook on things in general. They find a learning opportunity in everything that happens around them, or to them.
In my relatively short career, I have picked up leadership lessons from three sources: 1) a leader’s behavior and its effect on the morale and attitude of the people around him or her, 2) my own behavior and how it makes me feel in retrospect, and 3) a few strong women who showed me how to stand up for myself in adverse circumstances or in front of difficult coworkers and bosses.
I have worked with two kinds of managers – those who lead by example and those who lead by fear. The latter have taught me a lot of lessons – mainly how NOT to behave. The first time I worked for such a boss, I was new to the business world and was trying to learn everything I could. My boss at that time was a man of short and volatile temper. I saw him get results and so I imbibed that behavior and started applying it in my dealings with people around me.
It wasn’t until years later that I was finally able to accept that I had been a terrible person and the worst kind of leader. I still regret that I didn’t realize this in time to be able to go back and apologize to the people whom I had literally bullied to get the results that I wanted. But I learned a valuable lesson – to treat people the way I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes.
Another boss of mine believed in leading by fear, divisive policies and restricted visibility to upper management. Under his management, I quickly lost the enthusiasm I’d had for my job when I first joined. His management style generated distrust among team members and even enabled some team members to bully the others. He taught me how leaders should not behave. Working under him I learned that, to keep a team together, a manager needs to foster a cooperative and trusting environment, not generate competition based on the fear of losing out to others.
During this time, I also had the fortune to work with a few strong women who showed me, by example, how to stand up for one’s rights, against bullies and unfair bosses without resorting to aggression or pettiness. They taught me how to be firm yet polite. I believe a good leader needs these qualities to guide him/ herself and his/ her team in times of conflict.
My current boss has taught me how great results and exemplary behavior can be drawn out of one’s team by leading with positive reinforcement, ethical behavior and treating people with the respect they deserve. I have noticed how he uses positive language even when he is telling someone what they did wrong. He adheres to the company’s and his personal ethical standards. One thing he has done for me, time and again, is to highlight my accomplishments and convey them to his supervisors, bringing me recognition for my hard work. He has been a great mentor. He is one leader who has consistently demonstrated how to behave as a leader.
Pic credit: Planet of Success (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Cee Kay is a mother of two girls, a networking professional, a cooking enthusiast and
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