There is a saying in the Army, in order to be a good leader you must know how to be led.  In my 20+ years of service to my country this saying is quite true.  As I rose up the ranks, held many positions, and ultimately held my last rank I had to understand that leading means having a certain empathy.  How can an effective leader know how to connect with their subordinates if they have never been in their shoes?  Had I not gone through basic training I would not know the stress that is involved when I became a Drill Sergeant.  Had I not been a lower enlisted soldier I would not understand what to expect from my Platoon Sergeants.  This is a systematic learning process that requires one to embrace the position that they hold to the fullest point of understanding.

This is even more true in the civilian sector.  I have held positions at all levels in all size organizations and I have come across managers and leaders (yes there is a difference) that know what they are doing and some who are clueless.  Leadership is not about power and authority, that comes with the position, it is about engaging your followers and together achieving the organizational goal.  It can be cutting down trees or trading on Wall Street, it can be building houses, or planning a budget, a leader has the confidence within themselves and exhibits that to the team (followers) in such a manner that they believe that success is imminent no matter what the obstacles.

There are numerous leadership theories and models that currently exist.  In almost any situation there is a theory and/or model that can be applied to label the leader; I personally espouse the view that the best label is situational leadership. These labels can be applied to the situation or to the leader however, it does not box that leader into one specific category. Effective, efficient, leadership is a process of continual learning and understanding.  A leader needs to be able to understand that they can be one way with the team at this moment and in the next moment they may need to be another way to ensure the team keeps moving forward and accomplishes the task and goals of the organization.

My final cliche is this, when a person stops learning they are no longer living; in effect they are dead.  A leader cannot be dead if they wish to be successful.  Listening, learning, and understanding are all active parts of being a leader.  Are you listening, learning, and understanding?  If not, it may be time to re-focus in order to maximize your potential of being an effective leader.