What do we think of when we hear the word LEADERSHIP?
Status, money, importance, credibility, hassle, stress, managing others.
It’s an evocative word and will mean different things to different people.
Sadly, there are far too many people who are IN leadership positions that give it a bad reputation.
Leadership is a MINDSET and NOT a title or a plaque on a door. Anyone can be a leader if they demonstrate the right behaviours. A simple definition is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. In a business setting, this can mean directing workers and colleagues with a strategy to meet the company's needs. This leadership definition captures the essentials of being able to inspire others.
Simon Sinek who is an inspirational speaker and leadership expert, states that “leadership is ALWAYS about people”
Being a leader requires you to embrace selflessness. It is always about the value, positive change, and community you can build. If you don’t have compassion, empathy, and a love for people, you cannot be an effective leader. Understanding the needs, concerns, and wants of people is part of your duty. If you focus on empowering, educating, and inspiring the people who depend on you, you will no doubt will be a great leader.
So, creating “BUY_IN” from people as part of being an inspirational leader is crucial - you have to be a person that others want to follow. They want to work with you and they strongly believe in you and what you represent.
Think of the sort of person you are. Those of you that have done any type of profiling will understand your strengths and your weaknesses, your motivators, and stressors, your values, and beliefs. You need to know yourself so that others too can learn to understand you and how you lead. Therefore, being open and vulnerable are essential qualities to develop and be aware of.
People are not born as leaders - it’s a case of nurturing behaviours and developing a mindset that embraces leadership. Not everyone will be a GREAT leader, but most people can be better than they are. So as an effective leader, it goes without saying that you should have a desire for continuous improvement. Any leader that thinks they know it all is in a dangerous place – NO ONE knows it all!
The most powerful approach to leading others and bringing out the best in them is to understand coaching. It’s THE most transformational tool in your kit bag as a leader.
It focuses on empowering the coachee. It shifts the spotlight onto the individual encouraging them to be more accountable and responsible for themselves and their actions. Crafting a coaching approach is to be encouraged for everyone but in particular those responsible for the development of others. Coaching is often confused with mentoring, so here are the key differences to understand.
Coaching comes from a place of asking and empowering, encouraging a person to THINK in a very different way thus producing different results. This over time enables a person to become more self-aware and also more aware of those around them.
Mentoring comes from a place of instructing and directing, imparting your OWN knowledge and experience for the improvement of others. An important management tool but nowhere near as effective for developing people as coaching.
John Maxwell states the following:
“As a leader, the first person I need to lead is me. The first person that I should try to change is me.”
So, think about what it is you might need to UN-LEARN. What limiting beliefs are holding your Leadership mindset back?
Think about it - unlearning is very difficult because it requires letting go of beliefs and programming that has determined your outcomes for periods of time. It requires you to question everything you have ever learned and to determine if what you know serves you correctly as the leader you want to be.
So, for example - if you have always believed in the philosophy that as a leader you should be the one that knows all the answers, then this is exactly the type of learning that needs to be unlearnt and re-programmed - BECAUSE smart leaders are NOT the ones with all the answers and readily admit it!
To un-learn is probably THE most important first step to achieving a successful leadership mindset.
So, what is it that highly successful leaders do differently from anyone else?
Well, you might be surprised to hear this, but the top 1% of VERY successful leaders don’t see themselves as extraordinary people, they just do things in an extraordinary way.
For example, their daily habits are just that. They recognise which habits are conducive to getting results and leading their people in the right way. Once established, they stick to the process. Top leaders are also not afraid to fail. Sadly, failure has very negative connotations due to how we are taught to deal with failure from school. The messages from our informative years are that A* is a success but C is probably seen as a failure. Exams you take are based on either success or failure with the latter being a bad thing rather than a situation to learn from.
The famous Edison quote “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” illustrates that we learn from failure and not from success, so as a leader you HAVE to be able to fail and deal with it. No one grows and develops by always playing it safe and not falling flat on their face.
Be humble and be human - remember, successful leaders, are perfectly in tune with their people. They inspire them and look out for them - they don’t set out to be a dictator who is looking to lead from a place of fear and arrogance.
The top 1% will be the first to share with you the fact that they lead at the level they do because of the fact that they fundamentally CARE about everyone around them. They look after people to their right and to their left. They are the last to leave the sinking ship, the last to eat at the table, and above all else, passionate about the development and wellbeing of their teams and their people.
So as a leader of those around you, ask yourself this - are YOU prepared to put the agendas of others before your own? Do you see this role now as one where you are putting yourself at the back of the queue?
If you feel uncomfortable with that, then stay with it and think “INTO” what’s driving that thought process.
One final thing that top leaders do unquestionably is work alongside a coach. As I mentioned earlier, coaching is transformational if executed correctly and smart people know that a good quality coach will help them shift the thinking to where it needs to be.
By working with a coach, you begin to expand your level of thinking so that you CAN nurture your POTENTIAL rather than your PERFORMANCE.
And a coach is only a part of your support team.
Leadership behaviours are about fostering the right support networks around you – developing strong supportive relationships with people who provide energy TO you rather than draining it FROM you. And these top leaders are also the ones that are focused on creating OTHER leaders within an organisation.
As the great Tom Peters said: “Great leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”.
Here’s a good question to start with - ”As a company, how much do we CARE about each other?”
Sounds simple enough and I guess most people in the workplace of seniority would say “Yes, we do care about our people”.
A leadership mindset is about just that - demonstrating at every opportunity by every member of staff that there is a culture of caring for others - those to your left and those to your right.
Defining leadership mindsets usually throws up a mix of questions, so here are some of the key ones to be determined by the top of the business:
For a culture of leadership to exist, companies must first define it. This definition needs to be based on core leadership capacity principles and “must-have” characteristics. These can be uncovered through internal reflection and an assessment of the company leaders.
Build a culture of leadership in the hiring process. Once a culture of leadership is established, leaders must not only commit to the dedication to new leadership accountabilities, it must also be reflected in the recruitment and hiring process.
Build accountability into leadership development. For a culture of leadership to exist, leaders must make leadership development an essential component of advancement. This can be accomplished by ensuring key building blocks are in place before considering advancement.
Provide exposure to decision-making through coaching and mentoring programs. Create ways for employees to communicate issues, concerns, and obstacles.
Enable mastery of professional skills at all levels of the organization. A leadership skill development program needs to be in place, so employees have access to the resources necessary to evolve into leaders and leaders the opportunity to improve their leadership abilities. Nurturing leaders needs to involve effective and constant feedback that will allow employees to flourish. To make this happen companies can:
It takes some tough shifting, thinking, and development work for many individuals as well as ensuring an ongoing desire to learn and grow - not just on an ad hoc basis but ingrained as part of the every day - EVERY DAY.
"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be." ~ Rosalynn Carter