Leadership series (Part 4): Leaders are distinct and there is a time and place for leadership

This will be the 5th and last post on leadership.
For my previous posts, please see below:

Leadership series (Poll): Are leadership skills transferable?

Leadership series (Part 1): Are leadership skills transferable?

Leadership series (Part 2): Leaders should give others the freedom of making decisions

Leadership series (Part 3): Inculcating leadership skills through Role-Playing Games (RPGs)

While some leadership skills can be learnt and nurtured, there often remains a part of a great leader that remains enigmatic and almost impossible to emulate. Some people termed this as the “style”, while others call it by different terms. Nevertheless, it’s also this distinct and unique element that makes each of us special. It’s also this ingredient that is crucial for one to engage in personal branding. If not for the fact that all of us are special in our own ways, there wouldn’t be anyone advocating personal branding anymore, would there?

An interesting article that I have come across on this subject by Fast Company.com can be read here. Most schools do not teach or inculcate intrapersonal intelligence, a vital ingredients for lifelong success. We have to understand our strengths and weaknesses well to be leaders, as we will then know how to work on our strengths and improve on our weaknesses.  And because all of us have weaknesses, no leaders should work alone but in teams where each of the teammates are able to complement each other well with the strengths of one another (unless they are in freelancing jobs, which are often solitary by nature).

Some of us might wonder: if each of us are distinct and unique, why are all of us not leaders? Is it because of the fact that leaders require certain genetic make-up that are biological in nature and therefore, only some of us are cut out to be leaders, and even fewer are meant to be great leaders?

My answer to the questions above is no.

Leaders are leaders when they are equipped with a particular skill set  in a specific time zone, at a particular geographical location or region, and who rise to the occasion in a specific context or situation. We can say that we are all leaders in one aspect or another: if you are a manager leading a team, you are a leader. If you are a parent raising a child, you are a leader. If you are a traffic controller who are directing traffic, you are a leader. If you are a disaster rescue worker putting in extra hours to save and evacuate the injured, you are a leader. If you are a student helping an elderly cross the road, you are a leader.

Have you noticed that to perform each of the roles above, you have to possess a particular ability, be at a specific location for a particular period of time and lead in a particular circumstances or situation? This is the essence of leadership – where one promptly rises to the occasion to lead.

Leadership is a lifelong calling, but it may not and need not be a lifelong commitment. It is having the confidence to lead when one’s abilities and skills are called for, and the courage to step down when one’s skills are no longer required – in the same way that musical actors and actresses must enter the stage to perform when the curtains are up and while the audiences are watching – and step down when the show ends and the curtain falls.  Great leadership is having an instinctual understanding that leadership roles change with the sands of time and that succession is a required part of any leadership equation. It is knowing the exact and precise time to pass the baton to others who can do a better job that separates great leaders from good leaders. 

These understandings are the essence of leadership.

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