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Leadership Is For Everyone

Leadership is an abstract concept: there isn’t one definition that can explain its depth, as different people value different qualities, skills and styles.

This means that, even though it’s often associated with business, management or administration, leadership is something that anyone, regardless of their field of studies or work, can and should develop. However, in certain areas it can be hard to envision who a leader should be, how they should act, how they can effectively make a difference and how we can become one.

In this article we share the perspectives of people from multiple academic backgrounds, to show how important leadership is for everyone and hopefully bring some light over this matter.

We asked them the following questions:

  1. What does healthy/positive leadership mean to you, personally?
  2. What does it mean to be a leader in your field?

Here are their answers!

Law

Beatriz Martins, Law student

“For me, leadership means setting the example for others and becoming involved in our communities in an act locally. In a global perspective, it means inspiring others to become the change. I believe leadership can be developed in anyone by starting to be self-aware of our strengths and weaknesses, being interested in the world we live in and taking responsibility to help improving society in some matters, even the smallest ones.”

“Leadership plays an important role in the Law field even when we’re still in university: from early on we learn to identify and analyse issues, solve problems and communicate clearly and persuasively. Communication is crucial in the legal field in many ways, since we always work in teams and need to express our ideas to the people we seek to lead; quick problem-solving skills are also necessary, once we are faced with the most varied problems in the workplace or in the cases we work on. Most importantly, to be a leader is to lead by example, by showing empathy to others and understanding what other people need from our expertise, because when people seek help from lawyers, they don’t only need our legal knowledge, but also our advice on how to solve their problems.”

 

Communications

Margarida Oleiro, Social and Cultural Communication student

“For me, true leadership means to dare to get out of our comfort zone, share our vision and while being vulnerable and honest, grow alongside the ones who surround us, accepting both failure and success and most importantly, being able to grow from it.

We all know it’s easier said than done, but the first step towards leadership is to believe in yourself and in our own potential. At the same time, strong bonds that strive for excellence are greater, therefore leadership is also defined by protecting what I think is one of the most precious and special aspects of our lives: our relationships with other people.”

“As a communications student, I’m firmly convinced that to become a great leader in this field we truly have to be outspoken based on a creative and strategic mindset. Being open to change and learn from others are also key factors as well as aiming every day to be the best and the most authentic version of ourselves.”

 

Social Sciences

Daria Semenchuk, Sociology student

“Leadership is the ability to produce respect and admiration in the relationship with others. These characteristics cannot be imposed, as they will lose their value. Only through dedication, resilience and humanity can we first become leaders in our eyes and, later, in the eyes of those around us.”

“All social science professionals have the ability to be a leader. This area provides scientific knowledge about human behavior and the changes that occur in our social reality, being in our power how to apply it effectively. Thus, in the social sciences, we are leaders when we use our knowledge to impact the world. For that, it is necessary to be decisive and assertive, we can only be successful if we are not afraid to make even the hardest decisions.”

 

Hospitality

Brian Fuller, Hospitality and Tourism Management student

“In my opinion, a good leader communicates their ideas successfully, sets expectations from the beggining and motivates their team to do their best. Leadership involves empathy, resilience and composure: a leader has to be comprehensive and understand their team’s needs, be able to overcome challenges and obstacles that may show up and keep their emotions in control.”

“In order to become a leader in hospitality, the number one quality to develop is customer centricity. People and communication skills, not only to handle guests but also employees/ co-workers is very important too. What works best, in my opinion, is to delegate responsibilities, avoid micro-management and encouraging over-achievement. Business skills such as computer technology and bookkeeping procedures are also relevant.”

 

Natural Sciences

Luca Zeiner, Biology student

“I think leaders have clear goals and they do everything in their power to achieve them. If someone’s in charge of a team, they acknowledge their efforts and keep them updated in order for it to function properly. Positive leadership is empowering, therefore leaders motivate those around them by providing a healthy work environment, where their achievements are recognized and mistakes are rectified, not punished.”

“To be a leader in science you need to understand what your objective is or identify a specific problem and outline steps in order to achieve your goal or solution, also by investing in the research needed to do so. Being a leader isn’t necessarily a role (in an investigation or project, for example) but a way of living – like being confident in your abilities, inspiring others and do meaningful work. Communication, attention to detail, troubleshooting and problem solving skills are all important aspects to succeed in this field.

 

Marketing

Selina, Marketing master student

“Healthy leadership to me means being able to talk to my boss, without having to fear that I’m not taken seriously. I don’t want to be judged by my age or my work experience, but by my qualifications and skills that I contribute to a company. At my work place, I want to be supported by my peers as well as by my superiors, but at the same time I want to be allowed to work independently and be given responsibility over my own projects. Yet, I also understand that leaders sometimes need to make tough decisions on their own, which brings me to another aspect that defines healthy leadership for me: communication. Be open and transparent! I don’t care whether my boss gives me good or bad news, but I want to be informed about it and if possible be able to take matters into my own hands. Give me the chance to help and don’t force me to be a clueless bystander while projects fail! Moreover, healthy leadership to me means being understood and being treated like a human being instead of a machine in a working mechanism. If you ask me, being a good leader isn’t that difficult… Just ask yourself how you would like and expect to be treated by others and treat others with the same respect.”

“In order to become a leader in marketing, one needs to understand what marketing actually means. It’s not enough to say that marketing is only about selling a product or that it’s only about creating an ad. Marketing combines aspects like intuition and creativity with hard skills in areas like marketing research, business analytics and decision making. Since marketing is a rather fast paced industry, it’s important that people and also leaders acknowledge that they don’t know everything. New techniques and methods for communicating or promoting are being developed frequently, and if you want to keep being successful and competitive, it’s vital to stay up to date and trust the knowledge of fellow employees. However, leadership is also about making decisions and standing up for the results, no matter the outcome. Furthermore, communication is key! You want to lead a successful team? Be transparent with your employees and give them enough room to be creative on their own. You want to be recognized by customers? Think outside of the box and offer customers innovative, fun and integrative marketing campaigns. You want to be seen as a good leader? Find the right mix between pleasing employees, making tough decisions, relying on data, while also keeping an eye on various metrics.”

 

As you can see, everyone conceptualizes leadership in their own way. It’s important to understand there are many aspects to take in consideration, and different environments involve different responsibilities. Start by understanding what your industry, field or team needs and adapt to it, in a way that sets you apart from others in the most positive way.

Now it’s your turn – tell us what leadership means to you! Check out our Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn and let us know your opinion.

Leading By Example Is The Best Way To Inspire Others

It’s time to ditch the “do as i say, not as i do” mindset. Regardless of the situation, double standards will demotivate anyone that is following advice if you don’t practice what you preach.

– How can a supervisor expect his employees to be proactive during a slow shift, when he’s found watching netflix in the backroom during his work hours?

– Or how can a project manager inspire her team to work hard and long hours when she spends half of her day on her phone?

If people look up to their leaders, they will try to imitate them. Leaders have a responsibility to their team and a part of is is being consistent and sincere! The best way to encourage people to do their best is by doing it yourself – “walking the walk” as some may say.

This leadership style helps others see what lies ahead and act quickly to meet any challenges along the way. When a group is led by a person with poor leadership skills, there will often be conflict in the group as each person wants to do things their own way.

The vision you work so hard to achieve may lose its appeal, all because your team no longer trusts you. Good leaders drive their people forward with enthusiasm, inspiration and confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, leaders are supposed to guide and motivate their people with their words, but they can’t just stop there. Their level of involvement in the actual work is gonna have a reflection on their team and will allow them to propose more effective solutions when problems arise.

Leaders who put this in practice also have a better sense of what appropriate requests sound like, because they’re self aware enough to know what they themselves would be willing to do.

A popular example is Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, who says “both my own leadership style, and that of the other leaders at HuffPost, is very much like being in the middle of the circle, rather than at the top of the mountain shouting down”.

Leading by example is your most powerful tool as your actions have a far greater impact than your words, because people may doubt what you say, but they’ll believe what you do.

 

The Hardships of Leadership

There are millions of inspiring stories out there of people who have worked hard to become the best version of themselves. We often read about today’s leaders’ stories and there’s a large focus on everything that went right, but not everything is a bed of roses.

Everyone’s leadership journey is different, let’s go over some common obstacles leaders face every day.

 

  1. Fear of failure: Insecurity affects everyone, leaders are no exception. It can be especially hard to deal with when you have a large number of people depending on you. However, mistakes allow us to learn and grow. Accepting them as part of the process is important.

“It is hard to fail but it is worse to never have tried to succeed” – Theodore Roosevelt (26th President of the United States)

 

  1. Lack of communication: Not being able to openly communicate with those around you may affect productivity and lead to conflict. Many leaders sometimes feel disconnected from their team and the best way to fix it is by being transparent about their plans and strategies, encouraging honest feedback and allowing two-way conversations. Pro tip: communicating with people with different levels of authority requires you to be versatile and adapt your speech to each situation

“The difference between mere management and leadership is communication” Winston Churchill (UK’s ex Prime Minister)

 

  1. Dealing with pressure: Managing people’s expectations is something lots of leaders struggle with. It’s essential to acknowledge your feelings in order to control the way you react, since it’s not unusual to be less patient and more defensive in stressful situations. If you let your anxiety go unchecked you may hurt the relationship you have with your co-workers.

“We discover our character through decisions under pressure” – Dan Millman (Author)

 

  1. Burnout: When someone’s truly passionate about what they’re working on it’s easy to push too hard. The truth is, if you burn yourself out, you won’t be leading anyone. Keep a healthy balance between work and life. Considering an excessive amount of work hours a symbol of dedication and courage is wrong.

“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of the time we put in”– Arianna Huffington (co-founder of The Huffington Post)

 

  1. Delivering bad news: Leadership positions are filled with hard decisions. Being able to deliver bad news in an empathetic and clear way will allow you to find the next steps and not negatively impact the workplace’s culture.

“Better to have bad news that are true than good news we made up” – Eric Ries (Entrepeneur)

 

  1. Keeping it human: Vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of humanity. You’re not a machine who doesn’t make mistakes. Allowing the people you’re leading to see that gives them an opportunity to remember no one expects them to be perfect, contributing to a supportive and compassionate place of work. Vulnerability is about authenticity and it demonstrates high emotional intelligence.

“A leader, first and foremost, is human. Only when we have the strength to show our vulnerability can we truly lead” Simon Sinek (Author and inspirational speaker)

 

It’s not easy to be a leader. We will always find obstacles along the way that we need to face as challenges instead of problems. Being open to learn and grow from them is extremely important in order to inspire and empower others.

What better way to start your own leadership journey than through a volunteering experience or internship abroad? Visit aiesec.org to check the opportunities we have for you!