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What It Really Means To Be A Leader (And What It Takes)

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First let's explore what it means to be a leader.

A leader is not just someone who manages a big team or a company.

When I talk about leadership I'm talking about being the leader of your life first and foremost, then a leader in your career or business.

Leadership is also about having brand presence -a personality if you like. One that showcases your talents and skills, and has people respect you as well as recognise your contribution.

The most common conflict I come across in professionals, particularly female professionals, is that they secretly know they can do more, be more, deserve more but shy away from the exact opportunities that offer the chance to up level personally and professionally.

It's often due to doubt, or fear creeping in that being a true 'leader' will somehow mean working too hard, judgment from others or too much responsibility.

Katty Kay & Claire Shipman in their book 'The Confidence Code', have given many examples and statistics stating that women have a need to feel 100% "ready" to go for bigger opportunities, in an attempt to minimise the risk of failure.

You see here's what I know to be true from my own journey of stepping into authentic leadership - the more I progressed, the easier it became.

One of the reasons is that I became conscious of a) who I was 'being' and b) how I was presenting myself to the world - i.e. being 'perceived'.

I recognised that in order to reduce the gap between the two, the easiest way was to simply be myself in all situations in and out of the workplace.

No hiding, no pretending, not trying to be somebody I'm not in order to suit the person in front of me and not trying to please people.

If I added value in my day to day activities, people in the workplace would naturally be pleased with the outcomes irrelevant of what they thought of me personally. Of course it helps to be liked amongst your peers but this should not be the driving factor of your actions, choices and behaviours. (I address this in another article: Is It Better To Be Liked Or Respected?).

I call this Authentic Leadership.

I really started putting this into practice and one such example is a time I was being interviewed by a gentleman in the Technology Services arm of a global consultancy firm. He grilled me to the Nth degree about my experience using ShairPoint technology, to the point I had to hold up my hand and say, "I don't know", since I had never used it to the micro level he was quizzing me on.

It was simpler and easier to be transparent and I could see from his expression that he appreciated it, and likely considered it a confident move on my part. I continued to be honest and declared that I didn't want a job in Technology Services, I was interested in the business side and that I was capable to take on a role in the Management Consulting arm of the firm. He gave me no guarantees but offered to pass on my CV to start the interview process from scratch, provided they invited me in again.

Given that I had already handed in my notice at my previous firm and had just bought my first property in London with mortgage payments looming, it was a risky strategy but one I was prepared to take in order to live my truth and remain authentic. It paid off and after several tough rounds of interview I joined as a Management Consultant.

After two incredible years with the firm, and continuing to be an Authentic Leader of my career and life, I decided to leave and pursue a direction that was more in alignment to my values and vision at the time.

In the words of one of my business mentors: "You CAN have it all, but you can't do it all".

The other factor I learned about leadership, is the more you step up, the better you need to become at collaborating and delegating. You cannot be the one doing all things at all times in your career or business. A leader is one who maximises whatever resources are available.

As an Authentic Leader you will:

• became infinitely better at making decisions

• Know exactly what your value proposition is in your industry

• Know how to showcase your value in in the eyes of the right people

• attract influential people into your circle that have the power to open more doors for you

Authentic Leadership makes you a magnet.

Whether you're looking to be a great people manager, want to further define your leadership style or simply hone your expertise in your field, your success will increase significantly when you truly operate as an authentic leader of your life, business and career.

Shivani Bhagi is an International Career Success Strategist with a sole mission to help smart, committed professionals take charge of their careers by increasing their self worth and net worth.

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