Design & Management Discussion | Leadership cannot be given, It has to be earned.
Updated: Feb 27
Without leadership, there is no team but a bunch of individuals seating in the same room together.
The very first lesson about leadership I learnt years ago in my first company that I worked for, where I started at the bottom as an intern and make my way up as a leader and senior designer, is before you be a leader to someone you have to be a leader to yourself. You need to do your job with great care, passion and consistency. You do it not because someone ask you to but the standard that you set out for yourself and you will follow it through to the end. Only when you can follow your own standards then you might set standards to others. Only when you can be a leader to your own works then you might have a chance to be a leader to someone else. Live by examples and others will follow.
The second lesson was realized when I was reading a book about Leadership*. The lowest level of leadership always starts with “Position – People follow because they have to”. It is when your boss gives you a job as manager and a set of authority that comes with it. At that point in time, you can be called a leader but you have not (yet) necessarily become a leader in the eyes of others. Because you have to obtain the leadership position not only in their mind but their heart. Your colleagues and staffs are the ones who see you as their leader, not you. They are in reality the ones who grant you the permission to lead them, not your boss. People might listen to you because of your position over them but they will do their own things moment you turn away. You need to earn their trust and respect and for me this is where the first lesson would come to play.
Developing your team members trust and respect is one of the major tasks on your list when you start recruiting people. People will see you as their manager for a short period of time (around 2-3 months after they join) after that they less likely to see you as the position you have but rather the actions and decisions that you take. The more appropriate and considered actions you make in regards to the team and to each of the members the more trust that people likely to give you. With trust comes respect, and with both of those comes leadership that they will give you.
When this is done, hopefully you can see yourself at the next level of leadership which is “Permission – people follow because they want to”.