Written by B. Lynn Gordon (former SDSU Extension Agricultural Leadership Specialist).
Are you interested in learning practices you can implement to improve your ability to serve in a leadership role? Maybe you recently have been appointed or found yourself willing to serve in a leadership role or you aim to someday serve in a leadership capacity. Despite the situation, research has indicated there are three steps you can practice to help build your initial leadership abilities. Remember leadership is learned and ultimate leaders continue to practice their craft. The following are three steps to practice.
1: Your behavior earns your respect.
Titles don’t automatically make an individual a leader, it is how the individual’s behavior is displayed in their role with their followers and peers. How others interpret your behavior while you are serving as leader is how they will view you as such. It is how you will gain their respect and credibility. You may have been named committee chairperson or president of the farm cooperative, but what will earn you leadership rank, will be your behavior in that role. You must model the same behavior you would expect of others. To gain respect from followers and be able to achieve the goals and standards you set for yourself you must model behaviors deserving of respect. For example, how you speak to your followers, your consideration of the time and knowledge they offer in their volunteer role, or recognizing the devotion they give to your farm/ranch
2: Clarify your values.
It is difficult for your peers and followers to follow you as a leader if they don’t understand you and your values. Think about when you are considering making a donation to an organization, why do you do so? Is it because you have extra money on hand, or rather because you have something in common with the organization or believe in its values. You may know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and thus want to support this type of organization, or you value centers which are doing research or help families financially who have a loved one that is fighting the disease. Because you support the values of this organization you decide to donate to them. As a leader, you should know your own values to be able to articulate them to your followers, your organization, etc. When your values are clarified internally, you are more confident in voicing them and more openly sharing them. The end result; those following you feel more comfortable with who is in the role as their leaders.
3: Align your actions with your values.
Leaders are often looked upon for their ability to articulate their thoughts through communication skills. Research has found however that it is more important for leaders to be able to align their actions with their values. What they say and what they do must be aligned — their words and deeds must be consistent. As a leader serves in their role, their daily actions, the ways they show their commitment to their role and those they represent is how they will be judged. Are they capable of being a leader as a result? Leaders are constantly measured on leading by example, or as often said, they must practice what they preach.
The Bottom Line
The first steps a person can take in their efforts to become a leader and develop stronger specific abilities are actually actions of introspection. Steps where they model the behavior they want to represent, clarifying their values and aligning their values to their actions.