There’s a worrying trend that fewer and fewer of those now starting their careers are interested in becoming leaders. And we can sympathise with that.
There can be a number of reasons why younger generations don’t want to take on leadership roles. Some of the reasons we frequently hear about are:
- Being a leader is more stressful
- Being a leader can be lonely – ‘we’d rather be part of a collaborative team’
- Being a leader means poor work/life balance as you have to give up a big chunk of your private life if you want to have a career and be a leader
- Levels of psychological safety is low, so taking risks is discouraged
In fact, we are sometimes amazed that there are people out there who want to be leaders at all. It’s not necessarily an easy job. The expectations on a leader are high; being skilled in multiple areas is a must.
And still, that’s how it should be. As a leader you have a direct impact on how engaged your employees are, how much of their creative, forward-looking self they bring to work. And engaged, committed, energised employees is the key to a profitable, healthy and sustainable company.
And at the same time, it’s also OK to challenge the perceived ideas about how leadership needs to be (see the bullet points above). Leadership needs to continuously evolve.
It’s possible to set new parameters for leadership so that it is an attractive role to take on. And at the same time, the expectations on leaders should be high, because that’s how important leaders are. If you’re a leader, you need to see (and on some level understand) each person, be aware of the uniqueness of each person and make sure those unique qualities are maximised and utilised.
This requires emotional and social intelligence, which are concepts that have still not been given enough importance in leadership so far.
But it’s high time now. And it’s becoming more and more important. The speed of change is fast and the ability to go beyond “policies and procedures” is a big aspect of what leaders that want to thrive into the future need to excel at.
So take the time to be a leader. Don’t be so busy with meetings and calls and emails that you no longer have the time to spend with your team members.
Listen to what they have to say, take a genuine interest in them, make sure they have what they need to do a good job, laugh, encourage, allow for mistakes and learnings, give feedback, help them develop, communicate, encourage open discussions and respectful challenging, encourage teamwork……
Yes, the list is long – therein lies the leader’s biggest challenge, getting the focus right.
So if it feels like too much, then at least do this – see and hear each person, make them feel important. You have everything to gain from this – and you will.
And stop believing that you, the leader, have to have all the answers – no-one does. That’s not what leadership is about. Leadership is about being able to ask questions, listen, explore and innovate – together with others – so that answers can be found. It’s about facilitating engagement and collaboration, it’s about inspiring people by seeing them, believing in them and helping them be the best they can be.
So no, it’s not impossible to be a good leader – it does take time and interest though. And it’s a rewarding investment. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of making it possible for others to do a great job – bringing people together, building a collaborative team – succeeding together.
It’s bigger than personal satisfaction, it’s the realisation that you are making a real difference.