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Friday, July 25

Who made you the boss?

Leaders are people who we look up to: to set an example, to guide us, to be a role model and to learn from. Anyone can be a leader; a teacher, a manager, a parent, a brother or sister, a friend, a doctor, a counsellor, the list goes on. Most of the leaders I have had in my life have had some great leadership qualities, but obviously they are human and some of them do make mistakes. You may even find yourself come across leaders who shouldn't be in that position at all - these people tend to think they are better than us and do not guide us, teach us or listen to us; they just like the status and power and expect us to respect them and look up to them. Please note, age does not equal leader and if you are older than someone, it does not make you a better person than them - I mean, bravo, your parents had sex before mine; this does not equate to knowledge, wisdom and respect in a person. So, how do you know you're dealing with a good leader?

There are three main types of leadership; authoritarian, democratic and laissez faire. An authoritarian or dictator is a leader who believes their way is the only way, they make all of the decisions and do not share them until they feel the need for the rest of the team to know (Hitler was an authoritarian). A democratic leader is the best kind of leader, in my opinion; they listen to their students and they're open to their suggestions. A democratic leader is able to compromise and can learn from their students as well. Laissez faire leadership is laid back, so much so that you're just left to get on with it. There is also a lack of discipline with the laissez faire leadership style, whereas there is too much discipline with the authoritarian leadership style. There are other types of leadership that don't fall into the main three: Narcissistic and Toxic. A narcissistic leader is self-absorbed, arrogant and hostile and a toxic leader abuses their leader status and leaves a student or group worse off than when they started in the role.

When I say students, I am referring to life's students; the people learning from their leaders (this could be students, staff, sons and daughters, patients or any other kind of person that looks up to a leader). So really, I'm referring to us all.

A leader should show respect too, not just expect it. They should have time to listen to you and guide you accordingly. If you treat someone fairly, you will be rewarded with dedication and loyalty and that goes for both leader and student.

They should teach you; this does not mean they need to be a teacher (although they may well be), but they are happy to teach you about things in life as you grow enough to be a leader yourself. They should be open to your way of doing things and show you other ways of completing tasks - as an alternative, not as a 'your way is wrong, my way is right and the only way to do things'. A leader should also be open to learning from their students too. Everyone has something to give to each other and it doesn't matter how established the leader is, there will always be something you know that they don't and you can teach them.

A leader should be able to set an example. If they want you to learn, they should be able to carry out the same tasks, mannerisms and life lessons in the way they guide others to do so. A leader who does not set an example, but just barks orders and is incapable of showing any support or following their own rules and guidance will not gain respect. 

If you want to allow people to learn from you, you need to have some consistency with your methods. If you're a teacher or manager, then you want to have a regular time to catch up with your students and develop each time. You also want to have some consistency with your mood and mannerisms; teaching people to have mood swings and react badly to a situation that you don't like is not good leadership at all.

Like I've already mentioned, age does not make you a leader. Everyone will always be a student, no matter how high up the ladder you make it and most people will be a leader, even if you don't know it. Everyone should bear these points in mind as they may be guiding someone without even realising it. Even if you're young, you need to be mature if you're guiding someone in life or teaching someone something. Try not to act like a child; walking away in the middle of a conversation, arguing, and patronising people are the kind of things you should avoid if you want to be respected as a good leader. These qualities are especially bad if you are an adult and you are in an authoritative role where people have to look up to you as a leader. Keep a cool head in a crisis.

You need to be able to communicate clearly in order for people to follow. If you don't have a clear idea of what's going on, then your students won't either. 

If you want your students to follow suit, you need to be open and honest. Lying and backstabbing your students is a sure way to lose their respect and you will have an extremely difficult time trying to regain that respect.

You need to have some idea of what you're talking about. If your students are more knowledgeable than you in the topic at hand, then why should they look up to you when they can lead themselves? Know your stuff.

To be able to delegate tasks, you need to be able to trust your team. You need to be able to prioritise and have a plan of action and stick to it in order to get the task at hand completed.

This one is aimed mainly in the work place. When you're managing people, that's what you need to do - manage each individual person and understand that people learn in different ways, work in different ways and have different levels of knowledge and care for their work. If you treat everyone the same, someone will be getting treated unfairly. If you manage your department as a department and not realise it is made up of individual people, you may end up having a smaller department as people will not stick around to be unappreciated and have no one to look up to. Some of the best leaders I've come across are the ones who care about their work and the people in it, not their status and their salary.

A leader needs to be positive. If you go around acting defeated before anything has even happened then that is you showing how much belief you have in your students and your negativity will reduce productivity as everyone will begin to carry the same attitude. If you're positive, you will even be able to start turning negative attitudes into positive ones.

You need to know where you want to lead your students to. If you're striving for the best (as you always should be, in my opinion) then this will spur you and your students on to do more as they achieve success; this is down to you as a leader to offer them appreciation and praise though. If they are heading towards being the best and all they receive is criticism, then they'll realise they will get the same response from performing at a mediocre level and it will just slide as the results are always the same. Learn to appreciate the level of work produced at home, in life or at school.

You can probably place people in your life who have or lack these qualities as a leader as you read through this list, whether it's someone you look up to or yourself. If you're a leader, and you probably are to someone (even if it's a little brother or sister), if you did the trust exercise where you fall back, would they catch you? If not, it's maybe time to work on your leadership skills.

Kayleigh x

You will only ever come second if you try to be someone else, but you will always win 1st place at being yourself.