On becoming a leader

Published: November 30th, 2007

By: Serena CassidyTransformational Leadership. Organizational Leadership. Team Leadership. Servant Leadership. Individual Leadership. A Google search for the word 'leadership' reveals over 153 million articles, books, Web sites and how-to manuals on the topic.As a new public servant, I've noticed an emphasis lately in government on developing core leadership competencies. For example, this December the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) will be hosting a conference on leadership; during 2008, leadership will be the theme for GoverNEXT – a networking forum for young public servants; and every summer the Shambhala Institute for Authentic Learning attracts individuals from all levels of government (and around the world) to take part in leadership training and awareness.Despite the wealth of information available, I still have to ask just what does it mean to be a leader? Can everyone at all levels of the organization be a leader? Should we all become leaders? What are the challenges involved and how are they overcome?Over the next several months I will explore these questions with you further, and many more, in an attempt to highlight the various aspects involved in developing leadership skills and becoming a leader.As a new public servant, I'll share my observations with you and reflect on my own learnings on the path towards leadership, because yes, I too want to develop leadership skills. But do I want to become a leader? Well, it all depends on what it is or who I'm leading. The fact is, I still have to define who I am within an organization and what I have to offer before I stand up and say, 'Pick me, pick me!' I've heard anecdotal stories from my peers about young public servants who've peaked too fast.So, the question becomes how to determine 'when' it's the right time to lead, and how do you avoid accelerating your career without having first formed a solid foundation.According to author Jim Clemmer (2003, Leader's Digest: Timeless Principles for Team & Organizational Success), this solid foundation is composed of: awareness of organizational vision, mission and values; responsibility for choices; authenticity; passion and commitment; spirit and meaning; growing and developing; and mobilizing and energizing.Next month, I'll share my thoughts with you on leadership and its role in the formation of both individual and team success; particularly as this related to organizational identity.I look forward to taking this journey with you and am always open to hear your feedback and suggestions (serenacas@gmail.com). After all, while there are many different theories on leadership, there is one constant. No matter whether you're looking to develop leadership skills, or become a leader, 'no one is an island onto themselves'. In fact, both depend to a great extent on teamwork, interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. People are the most important asset an organization can have; having this awareness is not just a cliche, but a foundational aspect of becoming a leader.

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