“Leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization."
Co-Founder & Principal Consultant
Now, this is my opinion, and realistically every other article you read will have this person or that person's opinion. What's that saying? "Opinions are like …. everyone has one." I'm sure you all get the gist.
In the climate that we live in, everyone has an opinion or wants to influence you to believe what they're saying is absolute truth; it's black and white, and there is no gray area. Full disclosure, I'm not trying to persuade you to believe this is right or wrong, but I hope to make sure I can add a different perspective and maybe some more diversity to your viewpoint.
Identifying authentic and strong leadership while beginning your career at your first job is difficult. You're thrown into the grind, have to learn a new product, identify best practices/processes to better your daily routine, compete against your peers, and focus on your work-life balance. All in all, you're barely surviving, but you're capable of maintaining while adapting and overcoming as you go along. I was informed this was called "baptism by fire", and it's a bullshit term created by weak leaders to justify their lack of onboarding, ongoing coaching and training, growth, and development.
As you continue your career and mature, you start to notice something. A leader and manager are not synonymous; they are entirely different, but a leader needs to have skills to manage. There is a fine line between the two that can be blurred, and sometimes you might need to put on your manager hat. The approach is different. As a manager, you feel a sense of control to dictate people who work for you. You feel as though you need to have an iron fist to get the job done. Sayings like "I am the manager" or "I manage them" seem condescending and dismissive. A leader, on the other hand, can inspire someone to do the job. They can articulate the needs of that person while helping them grow. This inspiration is a two-way street, and the tips you provide as a leader should have a psychological effect on your colleagues. See how I don't consider employees working for you your underlings or a lesser. You are colleagues, and you have an ultimate goal as a leader. Aside from balancing your daily tasks, which might be to sell, grow the company, market your product, design the product, QA the product, or whatever else it might be, is to help them grow to get to where you are or even further.
What do growth and leadership have to do with each other? It's simple; leaders can provide growth opportunities, so their colleagues constantly excel and aren't stagnant. Everyone applies to a job hoping their hard work can move them up within the company. No one wants to stay in the same tax bracket, and trust me, and no one wants 5% promotions a year. If there is no clear path to get you where you want to go, what is the point of working there? Money, title, or to get by? I'm not sure what your reason might be, but it seems to be aimlessly working without purpose. I have a little saying that helps me get through these times, what do I need to get through to get to where I need to "get to." I need to see a clear path to "get to" my milestone destinations and derive purpose from my work. What does that have to do with leadership? Easy, leaders can offer opportunities, spot the next round of leaders, and instill change and motivation. Conversely, a weak leader will not present the opportunity for the opposite reasons from the above. Next time you interview at a company or end up working for one, find out who you are working for and what leadership does to ensure you are on the path to success.
In the economic climate we live in, once a company sees a little dip or decline, weak C-Suite "leaders" will point fingers at the leaders they have put into place. Look, only because they are closer to the top does not mean they are great leaders. When times are moving along without any obstacles or extraneous events, a company's C-Suite executives sit pretty, reaping all the rewards. However, once we encounter a tumultuous period, the outlook is different. They think, "whom can I scapegoat, how should I change the strategy, what is the next knee-jerk reaction I must take?" Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. If it worked, reinvention is not necessary, but it might need minor iterations. As a strong leader, you need to trust the leaders you've put into positions to lead the departments. What you shouldn't do, is micromanage them when, in reality, they are the expert in the department they are running. They are on the front lines, in the day-to-day, have their finger on the pulse, and aren't detached.
In short, make sure you identify your leaders. They inspire change, focus on seeing you develop in and out of the organization professionally and personally, offer growth opportunities, present a clear roadmap to success based on your input, and are not afraid of hiring or growing employees better than them. Additionally, they don't need to blame people when shit hits the fan but can be accountable and find solutions.
P.S. Everyone can identify a problem, but it takes an authentic leader to identify and implement the solution.