I can’t believe that I once bought into the idea that leaders are born. I was always pretty good at leading people, even from an early age, so it must be true.
I couldn’t have been more wrong! If this were true, how could I explain all I have learned about being a leader in the last 40 years? While some people have certain innate leadership qualities, this doesn’t explain how I have learned so much over the years through listening to leaders, reading about leadership and gleaning tips from great leaders. I even learned from those who did not lead well, as far as what not to do.
I believe for certain that everyone is or can be a leader. Sometimes it occurs naturally because of your hard work. It seems that when you excel at your job, and spend the time necessary to become knowledgeable, to the point of becoming an expert, people and co-workers take notice. They may look up to you and may seek your opinion on how to best do something. You are probably leading right now and may not even know it!
It is also true that your co-worker, your neighbor, and most people around you are watching what you are doing. Oh yes, they do notice! It is most obvious in children. They are always watching; they want to see if what you say is also what you do! Do you walk the talk? It makes a big difference and a big impression.
It is also true that people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders. Most people want to improve themselves to advance or get ahead. To improve themselves and the lives of their families, they need to and want to believe that their boss or leader cares about them, cares about where they are going, and cares about their ambitions. The chances are they will look elsewhere to get what they need if they don’t experience this.
There is so much written on leadership and how to become a better leader that it is almost mindboggling. Here are a few things I’ve found to be useful:
Know where you are going
Most employees (and, certainly those you lead) want to know that you have a plan and that their effort is not going to be lost or for nothing. They want to believe in a direction and vision that inspires and leads somewhere positive. Give them a reason to come to work every day. Give them something meaningful they can take pride in. It does matter!
Be fully engaged
Don’t be the type of manager that hides behind the desk, away from the firing line. Get out, talk to people, see what’s working and what isn’t. Get in the trenches as much as possible. The intent is not to do their job for them, but to help them remove the barriers that get in the way. By doing this, you will know more and truly demonstrate you care about them and what they are doing. If something – large or small – becomes a road block, solve it. Don’t wait. Get it fixed and move on.
One of the most important attributes of a leader is caring about each person, about their goals and ambitions, and about the job you are all collectively doing. If you want to avoid too much confusion, narrow your focus to just a few priorities at one time. Pursue being the best you can be all the time. Most importantly, show that you really care about them and what they do.
Be a leader with humility
It is so easy to believe that the team or the company wouldn’t be where it is without my efforts. There may even be some truth in feeling that way, but forget the idea! A great man once said, if you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want. An even greater man said to help others first. It’s all about other people. You must have people in the right seats, doing what needs to be done. Always stay humble. Be a servant leader who is trying to be honest, fair, even-handed and doing what is in the best interest of the individual, the team and the company.
You will be a good, maybe even a great leader. It will be worth the journey.