“You may be a better leader than you think,” says Eszter Molnar-Mills. Many people hold themselves back from leadership positions because they believe in the myth that leaders are born, not made. They mistakenly think that leaders must have forceful and charismatic personalities or that people’s weak points completely disqualify them from leadership.
In working with individuals and organizations, Eszter has repeatedly found that it is possible to develop effective leaders by helping them learn the right skills and behaviors. She got her start as an “accidental leader” and learned first-hand the importance of developing leadership skills.
Eszter became fascinated with the research coming out of the fields of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship, which informs her views to this day. The research shows that –
- People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.
- The quality of work life has a major impact on the quality of people’s lives overall because they spend so many hours at work.
The research also has debunked many popular myths about what it takes to be a good leader. These myths include the beliefs that successful leaders must –
- Be exceptionally driven,
- Be demanding of the people who work for them,
- Have forceful personalities, and
- Be charismatic.
None of these are true. The evidence shows that good leaders are not born, but that great leadership can be developed. “This is encouraging news if you aspire to become a leader – or if you become a leader accidentally – and you don’t have the stereotypical “leadership personality,” says Molnar-Mills.
It turns out that the most important leadership qualities are all positive qualities, traits that might even be called “virtuous.” Studies show that the most effective behaviors include –
- Creating and showing trust,
- Empowering other people, and
- Extending forgiveness, instead of creating or perpetuating a culture of blame.
In her work with many organizations, helping them develop good leaders, she has found that there is one leadership problem that occurs most often – the tendency of organizations to promote employees to leadership positions based on their past work experience rather than their leadership potential. It’s typical for a company to identify the person who is most effective in a team and then promote that person to be the team’s manager.
This can cause problems because the skills and behaviors that make people exceptional contributors in their original jobs are very different from the skillsets required to become a good leaders.
Another issue she sees repeatedly is organizations focusing on employees’ weaknesses rather than their strengths. Organizations waste resources by trying to shore up people’s weak points. One solution is to allocate projects so that employees who have those strengths can balance what other people lack.
Eszter sees several reasons why these problems persist –
- It’s hard for organizations to judge who will be good leaders,
- Even individual entrepreneurs may not be able to predict if they would be good leaders, and
- New managers often don’t want to admit that they are struggling with their roles. They mistakenly believe they should automatically know how to be leaders.
Eszter’s organization has been successful in applying innovative solutions to these leadership problems –
- By helping leaders identify their own strengths and then leveraging them,
- By harnessing the strengths of teams, and
- When leaders and teams identify a problem, Eszter’s team encourages them to partner with someone who is strong in the area where they are weak.
This is an exciting time to be working in the field of leadership development. Evidence-based strategies are helping many people reach their full leadership potential while helping organizations increase their bottom line.
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