Top tips for becoming a better leader

Once thought to be the domain of a chosen few, new research points to everyone having leadership qualities.

It’s all a matter of knowing how to unlock these qualities, argues social scientist Dr Ali Walker.

“Leadership used to be thought of as something only ‘heroic’ or ‘charismatic’ people participated in,” she says.

“There was even a ‘great man’ theory of leadership, where the leader was usually tall, good-looking and persuasive. Thankfully, the research now points to everyone having leadership qualities.”

How we think about leadership is changing

Dr Walker points to Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal’s book ‘Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALS, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionising the Way We Live and Work’ as a case in point on how our attitude to leadership is evolving.

The national US bestseller reveals how pioneers of work environments – such as Google – view leadership as the capacity to merge with the rest of the team; to identify what is best for the team; and to work towards that.

“In this view, the leader is the person who knows what to do next,” Dr Walkers says, adding we need to understand that leadership is like intelligence – there are many forms and we need to discover what ours is.

“Are you a coach? Are you a diplomat? Are you a creative or a visionary? Do you lead by example and then let go, or do you like to oversee what’s happening?” she asks.

The best types of leaders take responsibility and initiative; and can adapt to each situation.

How to be a leader at work

Dr Walker says when it comes to the work environment we shouldn’t limit ourselves to thinking only those in management are leaders.

“We know that organisations thrive when they have diversity – so you can lead simply by expressing your perspective,” she says.

“We aren’t just leaders once we are promoted to an official position; even a volunteer can be a leader. A leader is someone who plays an important role in any organisation or team.”

“The best types of leaders take responsibility and initiative; and can adapt to each situation.”

Kids can be leaders too

And when it comes to our kids, how can we encourage them to take on a leadership role in their small lives?

“Give them opportunities to lead,” Dr Walker says.

“This can be as simple as talking to them about characters in a movie and asking them how each character was a different type of leader.

“Nature is also perfect for this, where they can take ‘safe risks’ and get out of their comfort zone.”

Dr Walker’s top tips for leadership inspiration:

  1. See leadership as being like intelligence – and find your leadership qualities.
  2. Recognise that you can be a leader in all contexts.
  3. Teach your kids to be leaders and to recognise leadership when it happens.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Zoe, Ed, and the team.