What Does It Take To Be A Leader

I’ve been on the path to self-improvement for some months. As a strong advocate for life-long learning, I’ve found the process to be an eye-opener.

Each time I went exploring a new frontier – whether it was a new concept, a new mindset or a new skill, I was amazed by a sheer amount of knowledge the world had in store for us.

In the process I also had the privilege of sharing my personal journey with one senior manager in the office. Why him? Well, in our day-to-day interactions, whether it’s a casual talk or a deep discussion about work issues, he’s someone who has lots of experience under his belt. He’s someone I look  up to but most importantly, I’ve never felt judged when I voice my opinions in front of him.

One morning we were just chit-chatting about life in general. When I briefly touched on the subject of leadership skills, he jumped straight to the heart of the matter and said: cultivating leadership skills is all about having a sense of entitlement.

I smiled and nodded in agreement, but looked slightly puzzled in anticipation of what he was going to say next.

He started by telling me an interesting case occurred in his former workplace, a renowned global company. According to him, people in the leadership positions have this unique trait – a sense of entitlement that separates them from the rest. Interesting huh?!

Before I dive into it, first though, let me ask you one quick question: Have you heard of charity snack boxes? I’ll explain the concept to you if you haven’t. It’s something designed to raise funds for an intended charity organisation.

The “deal” is you take one piece of snack (a lolly/candy, a chocolate bar or something similar) and insert one dollar coin into a small box provided (or whatever dollars specified on the boxes).

In Australia, you can see charity snack boxes in many places like on the reception desks or check out counters of some retail shops or banks etc.

So, what happened to his last workplace was the charity snack box on the executive floor never balanced, whereas the charity snack boxes on the non-executive floors almost always balanced every time.

My reaction up to that point was somewhat cynical. Perhaps the example given was morally or politically incorrect or overly generalised. But with a bit observation, the idea of entitlement started to ring true.

The moral of the story?

I could see how leaders carry themselves. They walk into a room like they own the place, they make themselves comfortable around people, they say hi to everyone they meet on the way. They make their presence visible, they also make their presence count.

Leaders may “borrow” what’s available on the table without asking for permission. Those “small” things in their eyes are probably nothing. But let’s be fair, behind their fancy offices and shining glass windows, they are a bunch of C level executives who also take risks not everyone is willing to take…

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