Train yourself to be a better leader

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People moving into positions of leadership often find the transition difficult. Nigel Watson advises how to mould yourself into an effective leader.

From a very young age we are encouraged to seek out positive feedback. Therefore, moving into a position of leadership where we might be required to ask people, or worse still, our friends to do things they don't want to do can be scary. Many people lack confidence and self-esteem, which can relate back to childhood experiences and/or parental relationships.

Fragile confidence and self-esteem
In today's fast-moving and fast-changing world there is always going to be a strong element of unknown. How easy is it when facing those moments of unknown to assume that everyone else around us does know?

At this fragile time, while our confidence is often still being constructed, it is far easier to see everyone around us as being more knowledgeable, more experienced, less nervous, and less frightened than ourselves.

Moving into a position of leadership, where we might be required to ask people, or worse still, our friends to do things that they don't want to do - possibly at times that they don’t want to do it - can be especially scary.

Where are our role models to learn from? They tend - particularly within business - to be managers, and not always great ones! The process of becoming a leader is a hard one. All too often the prospective new leader finishes up becoming a clone of the managers that previously managed them. This is particularly true as the pressure and stress levels around them increase.

Take a moment to think, is this what you want for you?

Most of the people I have coached have had issues around confidence and self-esteem in one or several aspects of their lives. More often than not these issues related back to their upbringing and parental relationships. I always find it incredible that issues and events in our childhood still manage to have so much impact upon our confidence and performance in and out of work 10, 20, 30, 40, and in a couple of cases 50 years later!

In the main, these were all people who would have been perceived by others as high-performers, yet what we perceive on the outside of a person is not always what is happening on the inside. In my experience, people often assume that everyone else is OK, and that it's just us that have a hang-up or problem surrounding a particular issue!

One of the scary aspects about leadership is that as an effective leader, you have to be the one to not only unite (in many cases) and embrace diversity, and then sustain that united position, but also influence it. It's certainly going to be hard to be liked by all, and at the same time!

Standing out from the crowd, embracing diversity, influencing differing minds and being different may all be viewed as scary past-times, and so we need to first look at you, before determining how we do it!

You are really just a summation of your life's experiences. The events over your lifetime have shaped a large part of who you are today, but sometimes who we are can be at odds with who we are trying to be.

Nigel Watson is a member of the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and is managing director of Q4 Solutions. He is a contributor to our sister site,

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