The Quest for Leadership Skills: How to Truly Become a Leader

December 26, 2017
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By ‘Muyiwa Osifuye

Who is a true leader? 

Some time ago, I recall watching a group of young kids, of about 3 years of age, at a children’s birthday party. Complete strangers most of them were to each other. They were dancing and enjoying themselves. Their parents and other adults were equally chatting away and enjoying the ambience of the party.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed a particular kid who had quietly lured a few other children to an outside circle. He was showing these other captured-peers some things of interest as they all giggled away.

Suddenly, there was a loud shriek from this group. This got the attention of some parents who simply beckoned on them to join the main dancing crowd.

The question I asked myself was; how did this very tot of a “team leader” lure some of his peers away from the main gathering?

That was simply a natural instinct of persuasion and leadership. It was obvious!

I believe teachers can attest to this wonderful nature of human beings — as such evolving influencers are not coached in that sense.

And now the question would be; could this attribute be sustained or become extinguished as the child grows into adulthood? Can such leadership traits be imposed on just any unwilling individual?

Now, let us pause for a while to do this simple exercise:

Think of those people who have shown traits of impactful leadership, today and in the past; whether they are regarded as being famous or infamous.

How many of them do you think had formal leadership courses imposed on them?

Who is a True Leader?

Having the leadership trait is different from having managerial or technical skills. They are not interchangeable.

In my own reckoning, a leader is an individual who has the ability to carry others along to achieve a goal as expedient.

He or she becomes a rallying point by other people. Most natural leaders at onset are not aware of this noble character. But something always makes them put a foot forward, even at the risk of unpredictable outcomes, unknowingly.

Leadership Development Courses Don’t Work!

Leadership is a natural instinct. It could also be embraced and nurtured by an individual if he or she desires it. Then one wonders why organizations impose leadership training courses on individuals who are not psychologically ready for it.

It has been a huge waste of resources by many organizations using this approach across the world. Such should actually be referred to as management or technical development courses.

Nobody can be coaxed or mandated through a classroom setting to become a leader. These programs are simply playing out a game of insincerity.

Most ill-motivated “leadership” course attendees soon forget what to do when they are expected to lead at crucial crossroads. Most of these participants easily shrug off such imposed knowledge like a duck coming out of water. Over time, they gravitate to their natural “followership” instinct. Yet it is not the fault of these attendees.

Those who score the highest points after such leadership programs might just be pretenders, ultimately. When big issues come up, there won’t be the time to go after the notebooks in order to take seamless actions. However, real leaders get into a responsibility mode – ready for whatever the outcomes of their actions.

How to Find True Leaders?

Within the labyrinth of business conglomerates or amongst peers in basic human groups, persons imbued with the natural tendency of leadership may be found.

Some can readily be identified. Others may have to be found through painstaking and deliberate attempts.

As dormant assets, they could be on the shop floor and up to the board level. And the search shouldn’t be left only to the Human Resources Department whose headship might lack the leadership qualities.

Leadership Qualities and Characteristics

There are expected ways to describe the personalities or behaviour of a true leader. These traits are exhibited as applicable.

These are some traits expected of a matured leader:

        They think about the common good of the unit, group or entity.

        Many would rather be diplomatic in getting across their strong convictions in other to meet set-group objectives.

        Natural leaders think about others’ welfare before themselves.

        They would not normally ascribe the leadership nomenclature to themselves.

        They are no fools: if their strong convictions are not accepted by others, they may drop their ideas but are ready to bear the consequences of consensus of the action of the group.

        They could be authoritative and adamant if they see what others are not seeing.

        They are naturally servile within a group. This is a paradox of sorts. If need be, it creates a better understanding of their team rather than keeping a distance. Some people will erroneously think they are being patronized in this sense.

        They are visionary in their thinking and implementation – almost being regarded as a sage. Accorded a cult following in some situations, even though it is not due to their own making.

        They are perennial students who hunger after knowledge and also with an eye for detailed information. They will go after all these no matter the social class of the provider or the source of knowledge.

        They yearn for an improved project and regularly carry out self-critique for improved personal performance,

        They can easily identify other potential leaders in order to mentor them.

        They are courageous and can be very discretionary in not divulging sensitive information even after leaving for other organizations.

        In their interactions with different people, respect and trust are sacrosanct to them.

        Dignity, self-confidence with modest self-esteem and a quiet grace they do exhibit.

        Calculated patience and a good listening ear, they have developed. Talking – done only when it is very necessary.

        They love to study other human beings, beyond the obvious. For successful leaders, this is their pastime. They are aware people make them a subject of discreet study too. Therefore they never take anything for granted. Some of them can be regarded as being boring at times.

        They accept their shortcomings and don’t see themselves as superhuman.

        To show good examples, many are of good behaviour in the public — but painfully so –in private nurses and manage their own shortcomings. Some sacrifice by bearing the pains of conflicting personalities, once they accept their role of service.

        They are ready to accept their faults but you can be sure, they will not rest until they discover the reasons behind their failure. Their hunger for perfection and performance is second nature to them.

        Some of them don’t have the patience for sloppy behaviour around them. They would want smarter people to be around them to give good advice at difficult moments. This refreshes and lifts them up when they need to bounce around crucial ideas.

        Matured leaders keep up taming their emotions rather than acting in a knee-jerk manner, in their reactions to challenging situations around.

        They are pragmatic and decisive where and when it matters.

        They are innovative, therefore they are always brainstorming. They could be lonely or enjoy their solitary times when they must make important decisions on behalf of others.

        And more…

The Truth About Leadership Styles

We all exhibit different inherent behavioural patterns. Even between identical twins, we can observe subtle or marked differences.

A matured leader would decide when to be collaborative or authoritative as the situation demands. In other situations, he will genuinely act or feign an attitude in-between these two extreme styles. Therein lies the challenge of leading others, managing one’s emotions and solving the problem at hand for the group or entity.

    Effective leaders know what shade of behaviour to pull from his or her bag of tricks. He or she will find a way out, by logic, instinct and experience.

How to Truly Become a Real Leader?

If you desire further self-development, you can only belong to one of these three categories:

    You are a born leader – by your actions – having been told repeatedly by others. You may have that inkling yourself, but not so sure. Now, you know…

    You have the seed of leadership inside of you but have never been given the opportunity. Meanwhile, you want to improve on your capacity to lead. Therefore seek and go under the tutelage of a mentor, study other leaders close-by and remotely.

    Unexpectedly, some issues have come up in your life where you must don the toga of leadership — the one who bells the cat — while others are still procrastinating or don’t know what is going on…

This piece was written by ‘Muyiwa OSIFUYE (Optometry ’84 Uniben, MBA ‘’91 Unilag). He is the CEO of Stom & Ruby Services, (Management Consulting/Business Advisory), Lagos. He can be reached via or 08023179969. 

Dipo Olowookere

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

Mr Olowookere can be reached via [email protected]

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