“Being a leader is hard. It requires more thinking than I’m used to.” – Anonymous Client
It’s true! Leadership is a whole different animal than what most of us are used to. Why is it so hard, though? Let’s look at some reasons.
Often people go to school to learn more about a certain specialty; with a small subset choosing some kind of leadership as their specialization. We study to become software engineers, system admins, or technical support specialists and gain our degrees saying we know (on some level) how to do those things better than the average bear.
While these are all worthwhile pursuits, at some point or another each of us is offered (or railroaded into) a chance to be a leader of some sort. Because there is no such thing as ‘hard logic’ when it comes to people, leaders often need to rely on less teachable things like intuition. Mix that in with skills like coaching or mentoring, negotiation, and other soft skills, and many of us find ourselves quickly out of our depth.
Professionally, many people tend to continue getting better at whatever their specialty is, the more time they spend in their career. Certainly, some deviate and decide to learn something new and sometimes even change specialties altogether (for example, a QA Analyst becoming an author). Due to the nature of most professional dedications many people are not given the opportunity to learn leadership skills until it becomes a necessity or they choose not to learn them at all.
Another element that makes leadership hard is the systems we may be subject to. As mentioned earlier, some people go to school to learn to be leaders. There are many who are promoted or moved into leadership roles because of experience or knowledge. Some companies and groups don’t have great leadership development programs, some do – something that is certainly becoming more common.
At the end of the day the task of learning to lead often falls to the individual. Fortunately there are tons of great resources out there to help! Here are a few ideas for anyone looking to hone their leadership skills: