You must be involved and show leadership to rise to the top in any situation. But, like with anything, there can be some chinks in your leadership armor that you need to consider. This article aims to give you some thought-provoking points for self-reflection. Think of it as a checklist on how to be a better leader for your team.
Leaders are not satisfied with the status quo. Every leader I know is constantly striving to make things better.
Leadership isn’t about just doing the work. It is thinking about “Is this work even needed?” Maybe there is a better way that hasn’t been tried yet. I’ve said it before; aspiration is dissatisfaction.
Start with what’s not working as it should. Talk to your staff. What’s bugging them? Fix that.
Also, while leaders always want change, sometimes you don’t want to change things that are working. Change, for change’s sake, isn’t the right path. Be aware of what you are doing and the reasons why. “Putting your thumbprint” on something may not be the way to go if that thumbprint doesn’t add value.
In leadership, it is important to have success but be humble about it. After all, your team, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders probably handle a good chunk of the work. Nobody goes through success alone.
There is nothing worse than a braggadocious leader. This is a gigantic turn-off for most teams and will actually lead to a culture problem.
As they say, “Nothing in life is permanent. Be humble.”
Of course, the next thing on the list is going to be the struggle. Nothing comes easy. Success is fleeting. There will be times of struggle.
During these times is when leadership shines.
Leaders need to remain calm and confident. When your crew sees you as an unfazed rock during times of stress, it will calm them down and help them focus. If you are running around like a headless chicken, stressed out, and causing a ruckus, it only amps the level of uncertainty and anxiety.
There will be setbacks. It’s ok. Power through them and solve the challenge. Bring your team together and work on the problem.
Who Is Next?
Believe it or not, you need to train your replacement in order to advance. When management sees you as the only solution for leading the team and has a “what will we do without him/her there?” mentality, you are stuck in your position.
Instead, get several people trained on what you do. This will allow you the freedom to work on higher-level projects without sacrificing the day-to-day tasks. Also, it will allow you to have a vacation, call in sick, or take a business trip.
You know you are an effective leader when your team can function without you there. If you are chained to your desk and have to “always be there,” that is a sure sign that you are not leading; you are micromanaging.
Does your team have the freedom to speak their minds and tell you that you are wrong? For a host of reasons, many team members are shy about speaking up because of what their boss might say or do.
Does that resemble how you lead?
Your staff needs to have the psychological safety to tell you the truth without you acting like a serial killer. This is important stuff. When you are wrong, admit it.
Plenty of leaders make the mistake of always acting like they know everything and can do no wrong. Stop it. You are not omnipotent.
Not Being Future Focused
Often when things are busy, it is hard to think about anything a few months down the line. But for good leaders, they are mindful of what needs to happen a few months to a year away.
What customers can we acquire? Will the market change? Who needs to be trained to level up? How can we improve the weakest aspect of the business?
John C. Maxwell said: “A leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Are you reactive or proactive in your stance in your company? Only one expresses leadership.
Listening with the Goal of Learning
Leaders actively listen. How is your listening style?
Are you one that takes notes and asks pointed questions to glean more information to push for change? Or, are you the type that can’t wait for the other person to finish talking so you can inject your point of view into the conversation?
People around you know the answers. Are you listening to them? You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
It is one thing to know about a problem. Quite another to take action to solve it so that it doesn’t occur again.
Are you action-oriented?
Not just with starting something, but actually carrying it through to completion? What if it takes a lot of effort and time? If you want to be a more effective leader, you have to start change and see it through to completion.
Leadership is measured by achievement, not by what you start.
Finally, real leaders seek constant feedback. They know they are not perfect. Finding out how they can improve or what isn’t working as it should is critical to their process.
If you shy away from getting honest feedback because you might get your feelings hurt, maybe you aren’t ready for the mantle of leadership. Leadership isn’t about making everyone happy.
In fact, some people don’t like it when you change something. Leadership isn’t about popularity.
Nick Saban says, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”
“When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” – Ronald Reagan
“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
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