Leaders are not just born. It is true that some individuals are born with greater natural talents than others. However, the ability to lead is a development and collection of skills. Most every one of these skills can be learned, sharpened and honed. Leadership is complicated. The important thing to remember is that it requires due diligence daily, and it will not occur overnight. There are many aspects to leadership; people skills, emotional composure and strength, discipline, vision, dedication, momentum, timing, respect — the list goes on. With so many of these aspects to develop that is why it takes development and a long period of time to become seasoned, as some would say. There is no magical age when you will begin to understand the many aspects of leadership, but one thing will be certain, when clarity of these aspects begins to occur you will know it. Your focus, demeanor and actions will clearly be different than previous.
According to John Maxwell there are four phases of leadership growth.
Phase 1: I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know
Most people never recognized the true value of leadership. The concept that leadership is for a select few is common, usually reserved for those of “Chief Officer” rank. Unfortunately, most people never recognize the opportunities that they are passing up, especially when individuals don’t learn to lead. Leadership can occur in so many fashions and at every level. The opportunity to lead someone or a group exists everyday in some way, shape or fashion. If we learn that leadership is influence and that in the course of each day most individuals usually try to influence at least four other people, their desire may be sparked to learn more about this subject. It is unfortunate that as long as an individual doesn’t know what they don’t know, there is failure to grow.
Phase 2: I Know What I Don’t Know
Usually this phase occurs when you suddenly find yourself in a leadership position only to come to the realization that no one is following. This is usually when individuals realize they need to learn how to lead. This is when it is possible to learn how to lead. To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to becoming knowledgeable. Successful leaders are life learners, a result of self-discipline and perseverance.
Phase 3: I Know I Am Growing Because it is Showing
When you recognize your lack of skill and begin the daily discipline of personal growth in leadership, exciting things start to occur. During this phase you begin coming into your own as a leader. This phase is more of the true student phase. You are actively learning, experimenting and growing in both knowledge and wisdom.
Phase 4: I Simply Go Because of What I Know
When you are in phase three, you will be effective as a leader, but you have to think about your every move. During phase four, your talents and abilities to lead become almost automated. It is during this phase you receive your reward for all the discipline, dedication, determination and hard work. Many never reach this phase as they never recognized the process and pay the price. During this phase it also opens the door for mentoring. You have the opportunity to pay it forward as you “lead” other through this rigorous process.
Leadership is something that is not developed over night or in one day; it is developed daily and is an ongoing process — that is reality. The important thing to recognize is that your leadership ability is not static. Because no matter where you are or starting from you always have the opportunity and ability to get better no matter who you are — world famous or the person next door.
Douglas Cline, is a 29-year veteran and student of the fire service, serving as Training Commander with the City of High Point (NC) Fire Department and Assistant Chief of Administration with the Ruffin Volunteer Fire Department.