A cardinal sin in management is thinking your leadership comes from your intelligence. Great people, in leadership roles, fall flat on their face because they think their education or experience will result in great leadership. This is furthest from the truth. Great leadership isn’t bound to smarts, salary or experience. Great leadership is a skill; and just like parenting, it can be learned and exercised.
Why You’re Probably Not a Great Leader…
Do you micro-manage? Do you have paranoia at work? Can you delegate successfully? Truly great leaders are memorialized, not appointed. If the people in your charge aren’t working independent and happily, you’re probably a poor leader. If you have employees waiting to become a manager, asking for a leadership role, or scrambling to keep people from leaving…you’re probably not a very good leader. Epic leadership is being able to take responsibility for the people in your charge…not to take charge!
So what could I do to become a better leader?
Here are a few tips for those who want to make the jump from being a smart employee to an epic leader…
Know how and when to seize an opportunity…
There are two different types of people when it comes to opportunity:
You either see the thing you want and go for it, or you see the things preventing you from getting what you want. Opportunities present themselves in all sorts of ways. There is no science to receiving an opportunity. Whether it be luck, timing, hard work, recommendation or any other reason, once an opportunity is presented you need to seize it. Opportunities are often taken. The best leaders take opportunities, despite what they are. The only thing you can’t do, is prevent someone else from taking the same opportunity.
What do I mean?
I mean you need to stop waiting for the “right” opportunity. I’m saying if something comes up, stop looking at the negative and jump in! You never know what the future will bring. If something presents itself, TAKE IT. It might be hard. It might not be what you thought you wanted. It might cost money or have you working hard. DUH!! Leadership means hard work, risk, and getting out of your comfort zone. It also means you have to forgo choice. You can’t CHOOSE everything you do. You can’t choose what sicknesses you get. You can’t choose who your family is. You don’t choose which accidents occur in your life. Choice has nothing to do with leadership…it’s what you do with what’s in front of you. You also cant get mad or in the way of someone taking the same opportunities you have! If you did it, someone else can to! If you cut in line, other can too. You can do whatever you want to gain success, but you cannot stop others from doing the same thing!
Tell the truth…
To have a lengthy career, you’ll need people to trust you. Trust is the foundation of all great leaders. For trust to exist, you must tell people the truth. It’s not easy to tell the truth. More confusing…telling the truth and being brutally honest is not the same thing. The difference between telling someone to try another outfit, verse saying they look like a slob in the one they’re in, can be hard to navigate. Brutal honesty has a time and place, but there’s a lot of finesse as it pertains to the truth. That aside, having morals and sticking to them will always prevail as a winning trait.
Learn to communicate with your teams and clients. If you question whether or not to tell someone something, go for it. Communication of the truth is paramount. Situations and decisions never play out according to plan. Anyone in management will tell you it’s all about exceptions. The ability to pivot and adjust means the world. If you communicate half-truths or straight lies, you’ll often find that adjusting is tricky. Everyone in your charge should know the truth. Anyone you’re selling to should should have a level of transparency.
You’ll never know where you stand with people. It’s always best to be honest and forthcoming. While the truth won’t always be the “right” answer, it always builds trust. Learn how and when to tell the truth, and try not to lie. Just like life, it’s all in the delivery and timing.
Take the risk to trust people…
Just like telling the truth, you need the ability to give trust. Legendary leaders have the trust of their team, implicitly. This is typically because they trust their team in the same way. When people feel protected and trusted, they’ll act accordingly. The responsibility of a leader is to give credit away when things go right. When things go wrong, leaders should take all the responsibility. Trust is the firm belief in someone’s reliability, ability, and strength. You cannot lead without this.
People are disloyal. People can be childish or petty. People can have tendencies to hurt each other. There’s a million reasons to keep people at bay, and distrust them until proven otherwise. This mentality is self protecting. Epic leaders aren’t afraid to get hurt. They aren’t afraid to defend themselves. It’s paramount to give trust first. It comforts the people in your charge, and frees your mind from paranoia and repercussions.
The fact is, trust is a two way street and it is always evident to those around you. If you give trust, people either rise to the challenge or epically fail. People need to be empowered, leaders handle the repercussions.
Ask for, and accept help…
This might be the biggest endorsement for leadership over intelligence. Mythical leaders know how to ask for help and when to accept it. Intelligence has a connotation of self-reliance. There’s always a need for intelligent and independent workers. Leadership involves so much more than getting the job done. It is an ability to anticipate and react in unknown environments with confidence and prowess.
No one can anticipate what’s going to happen in the future. Things change. The world is a volatile and weird place. It’s good to prepare and be aware. I’m not suggesting you go into situations blind asking everyone for assistance. But, in moments of doubt, it’s excellent to ask for help. It’s OK to be vulnerable. Great leadership involves the whole team; There’s strong members, weak members, and folks that have specialities. The ability to receive help and know when to ask for it, is the difference between an employee and a leader. Thinking you have all the answers; all the intelligence, is ignorant.
It should also be known that people intrinsically want to help. People love feeling like they are strong, valued members of a team. It’s admirable to ask for help and involve members around you. It’s stupid to hire intelligent workers, then tell them what to do. It gets you no where.
Remember who you are…
As you move up in rank and position, it’s hard not to enjoy the perks of that status. Whether it be warm coffee, hand delivered. Flight upgrades. An office with a nice view. Every position carries responsibility and rewards. It’s important to recognize those rewards are not for you. The rewards are for the position. When you move companies, give away your position or promote others to your previous posts…you don’t keep the rewards you had. You are a person. You’re intelligent. You’re emotional. You have strengths and weaknesses. You are human.
Positions, rank and team size doesn’t make who you are. Leadership is a way of life. Leaders aren’t appointed, they are forged in experience and results. It’s too easy to fall into the habit that what you previously had, is warranted now. It’s also really easy to assume that when you get to a higher position those things will immediately be given to you. Define morals and realize what you need in your life, personally. Build upon those things, demonstrating empathy and trust. It’s not about previous positions or seeing what other’s have. You have no idea what others are dealing with to warrant the things you see. Leadership is something you possess. Everything else is a perk of the position. It’s not yours.
Style & Legacy…
Leadership and the ability to manage others isn’t cookie-cutter. You can’t acquire it in a store or in a method of dress. You can emulate, you can educate, but you cannot duplicate a leadership style. It’s something deeply personal. You need to find your style. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Don’t rule out the unconventional. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
You can be a great and epic leader. The legacy you leave behind needs to be more than material. Great leadership results in lifelong careers for others. It results in use-cases for future generations. Maybe you leave behind a building. Maybe it’s a technology. Maybe it’s a product or service. Whatever it was, it should live on after you’ve left. If you look behind an see other’s with positions you once had; or things that serve the needs of others, it means you did something right. A leader is needed in the moment and should be able to inspire and produce things that leave behind a legacy of greatness.
Holding a post or position is momentary. Leaving a legacy and having a unique style is something others remember forever. You should be driven by creating your own legacy…not carrying on the legacy of someone else. Have the ability to be inspired…but also try and inspire others. Truly great people understand friendships and wisdom is something personal, not created by money or material items. Leadership is not earned without a team, and part of your soul.
Who are you?