Project Management

How to Unleash the Leader in YOU

From the Servant Leadership: Serve to Be Great Blog
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This blog is about leadership as it applies to projects and project management, but also as it applies to society in general. The bloggers here manage projects and lead teams in both business and volunteer environments, and are all graduates of PMI's Leadership Institute Master Class. We hope to bring insight into the challenges we all experience in our projects and in our day-to-day work, providing helpful tidbits to inspire you to take action to improve—whether in your personal life, your business/work life or on your projects. Read, comment and share your experiences as we share ours. Let’s make the pie bigger! Grab a slice!

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Cameron McGaughy
Catalin Dogaru
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Suzan Cho
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Tolga Özel
Graham Briggs
Cecilia Boggi

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On the 9th of October 2012, a schoolgirl was hit by three bullets, fired by a gunman on a school bus upon calling her name. One of the bullets was very devastating and put her into a coma under intensive care for a long time. She had to travel outside her country for medication in rehabilitation centers. The reason of this tragic attack were her posts in social media encouraging children, especially girls, to continue their education and about the challenges she was facing  in her country. The posts of Malala Yousafzai have been drawing the attention of society, institutions and international press. The attack increased awareness, attention and several awards were organized in her name.  Since then, several campaigns have been conducted. Government officials in her country started actions to develop the education system. And, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2014 -  the youngest winner of this prize at the age of 17. In the announcement of the prize it is stated that “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the rights of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls' rights to education.”

Malala’s  thoughts and actions have created a global inspiration for the rights of children and  women and impacted the lives of many people. The conditions presenting Malala as a leader were more about her life experience than her education. Since the trust and support to Malala has increased after the tragic attack, many people followed and joined her in her journey to reach her goals.

Each one of us takes follower and leader roles at the same time in indifferent contexts. In Malala’s case, I define the leader as the one  followed to achieve a common goal while walking beside you while you reach for the same goal. Leadership can be defined simply as the set of competencies which influence others to follow.  These competencies may differ based on culture and context (family, school, company, club, region, country, etc), however, trustworthiness and initiative-taking are the fundamental assets to initiate the leadership journey. Without these, the journey does not start. But these are not sufficient for you to be accepted as leader. You need to influence and inspire others to reach for the goal, which requires another set of competencies on top of fundamental competencies. Engaging others, listening, strategic thinking, making sound decisions, managing cultural diversity, being open to criticism and feedback, coaching followers, and cultivating new leaders are some of those competencies.

There is an ongoing debate about whether  you can only be born as leader and if you are not, you can not become a leader later on. I can accept that genetic heritage impacts our behaviours very much and also our leadership journey. However, I believe that we can develop the leader inside us by learning, which mostly occurs through experiences, rather than in classrooms or through reading books. Leaders are not born as leaders. The leader appears while responding to personal and community challenges, taking initiatives, responding to failures, and demonstrating self criticism and ambition for development.

Learning of leadership through experience is not only about developing new competencies, it is also about putting old habits behind us and overcoming  knee-jerk reactions and poor assumptions.

The fastest way to develop/unleash the leader in you is to experience by taking initiatives to achieve a common vision, maintaining relationships with diverse cultures, improving self awareness and being trustworthy.

Today, one of the top global challenges,according to the report of World Economic Forum, is the lack of leadership, The issue is not about the weak competency of the leaders, it is that competent people do not (or can not) take the initiative to lead us.

Each of us could be leading or coming across leadership opportunities in different environments to solve problems and to achieve common goals.  You can only be a greater leader through experience. We should not miss those leadership opportunities to increase impact and to learn to be a better leader. So, “Take The Jump!” We need great leaders!

Posted by Tolga Özel on: January 06, 2016 12:23 PM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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What a story - Definitely worth reading. Thanks for sharing.

I believe in one thing: Leadership is born and delivered with the package at birth (For some, not all) so at some point it will be unleashed and it will have positive influence if this person works on improving his leadership skills.

Moreover, leadership and influence has no age or time limit.

I've seen smart people, hard working but at the same time they know they can't be leaders.

"You can only be a greater leader through experience."

This is the apt quote, I would say.
Whenever you are focused on an issue to achieve a common goal, like the organization objective, business value, outcome or product/service/ result in a coordinated manner with integrating effort, fruition of the effort is achievable.

Tolga, wonderful post, thank you for sharing. I am probably in the camp where we are born with more or less potential to become a great leader but then through our experience and mentors, we become the leaders we were born to be. Keep up the great writing Tolga :)

Great post. Here is a TED talk on a similar topic, which I think you'll enjoy about a woman who, through her leadership, kept the Taliban from shutting down the school she started which educated women. It is amazing!
How I stopped the Taliban from shutting down my school

Toastmaster's tag line is "Where Leaders Are Made".

wonderful post, thanks for sharing.

Great perspective.

Its good read, thanks for the post.

Beautiful write up.Its inspiring.

Dear Tolga
Interesting perspective on the topic: "How to Unleash the Leader in YOU"
Thanks for sharing

Interesting point: "The issue is not about the weak competency of the leaders, it is that competent people do not (or can not) take the initiative to lead us."

What are the reasons for this?

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