Those who are ‘good at everything’ make poor leaders

Written by Rachel Crane

Friends, there is a rumour going around that is of grave concern to me. An urban myth, if you will, that I feel needs to be busted: leaders have to be perfect in order to succeed.

Despite popular belief, leaders do not have to be the best at everything. You do not become a leader because you’re the most proficient, the most influential, or the smartest (because… let’s face it… as advanced as humanity is in 2012, we still do not have a clear way to define an individual’s level of ‘intelligence’ anyway).

Leaders are not even necessarily experts at leading others. To be an effective leader, all you’ll need to be particularly good at is leading yourself.

Strong leaders are skilled in the area of self-awareness. They have a clear perception of their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and emotions. When you are self-aware, you have the ability to understand others particularly well via the instrument of introspection.

Research shows that while an individual’s academic performance may successfully propel them into a certain profession, it is their level of emotional intelligence (consisting of self-awareness, self-management, self-motivation, ability to empathize and manage relationships) that will determine if they achieve highly in their given field.

When you understand yourself, you live with enhanced social awareness and you understand how to empower others to become more aware – of your mission, themselves, and the personal resources that they might give to it.

I assisted in presenting Executive Forum last Saturday. Executive Forum is a daylong training program designed to help Brock’s student club members transition into various new executive roles and, in general, further their leadership and organizational management skills. Brock’s Foundations in Leadership series at Brock extends the opportunity to dive deeper into key areas of emotional intelligence and other such valuable constructs to club executives and any other faculty, staff or student with the desire to.

A common theme woven through both programs is the ideal that no one has to be perfect. In each practicum, just like in real-life, you are free to make mistakes. You’ll make mistakes and take some time to reflect on what you can learn from them. In this way, you train your brain to embrace imperfection and possibly even learn how to humour the challenges and conflict associated with it.

Openly accepting what you are deficient in is also an important feature of self-awareness. It is the integral first step towards efficient leadership and will determine whether you should spend time developing certain skills that are lacking or attracting the right people to fill in the gaps. Just as we all have our defaults, we can all be leaders with our unique abilities, experiences and style of getting things done.

You do not need to emulate great leaders before you, beseech others to follow you, or waste time striving for perfection. Just be authentic and aware.  When you focus on leading yourself towards awesomeness instead of flawlessness, you become the best leader you can be.

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