Leadership, as an act of social influence, is not related to a defined leadership role, but it is more related to an internal journey we can take as individuals – one that leads us to became a role model for others.
Managerial positions do not always create good leaders! Instead there are many leaders that create the best position for themselves by providing value to others.
So how can we discover and develop our leadership style, as an act of social influence?
First of all we have to remember that leadership development is an ongoing process rather than a short-term program. It is a journey of self-awareness that starts from an individual’s values and belief. It is a non-stop learning experience.
Some months ago, an entrepreneur I worked with, Mario, described some of the steps he took to develop his current leadership style. I have seen the same steps being taken by many other successful leaders and social influencers.
Mario started his personal leadership journey at the end of the 90s – during his holidays whilst studying at university. He went to a small town in Congo where he worked as a young engineer. He was supposed to teach to the community’s residents how to create and maintain basic infrastructures.
The first challenge he faced was that he had to learn the local dialect spoken by the community, and compare his technical knowledge with the locals’ beliefs and traditions.
The first lesson Mario learnt about leadership was ‘never think that the things you think you know are always true’.
So he started to learn again.
When he understood worries, doubt and beliefs people had about that work, he started telling a story about a better reality that answered their needs and desires.
The second lesson Mario gave me was: always help people to dream bigger. Shared vision has a double advantage – it helps you defining your values and your beliefs and it gives to others the possibility to see beyond their usual perspective.
Then, Mario identified the ‘local leaders’, the ones who had the possibility to influence other people, and he started mentoring them. Developing other individuals’ leadership style was the most effective tool Mario discovered to achieve the shared goals.
The third lesson from Mario, and probably the most important one, is ‘always be wise enough to not be afraid of other people’s potential’. When you invest your time in others they will grow stronger, and they will always thank you for your time and knowledge. Personally, the people I appreciate the most are the ones who have been my mentors. These individuals are the ones I endorse when people ask me to recommend a good professional. They shared a vision that made me stronger and wiser.
There are many young professionals I meet that are too often afraid of dedicating time and energy to sharing their knowledge and vision with their colleagues. There are few people that dedicate themselves to being a mentor of someone – especially if it is not required by their job description. But remember: when you mentor another human being, you are developing and defining your own leadership style. Only the ones who feel strong and comfortable enough to dedicate time to mentoring others are the ones who can indeed lead change.
Mario’s story and many other testimonies confirm that to become a better leader, it is important to be a mentor for someone else.
This is a guest post from Eleonora Ferrero, Executives and Leadership Coach.