Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Secrets to Leadership Success

Everyone has ideas and suggestions for helping you to improve in your life, to become more successful. After all, they have experience in 'what's worked for them' to fall back on.  When it comes to leadership though,it may become more difficult to find those who have had the experience and success you seek to gain wisdom from.

In my practice I work with Leaders in all shapes and sizes, from across multiple industries, and have studied Leadership in its many guises.  The following are 5 key Secrets others have shared with me consistently, that have been instrumental in helping them to lead successfully.

1.  No One Leads Well if they Don't Want to be the Leader.  There are likely more examples in your organization of people in a Leadership role that, in their heart of hearts, really don't want to be leading others. Often they have taken the role for reasons other that truly wanting to lead...

  • Some may have felt that they 'had' to take the role 
  • Some because it was the 'next step' and is part of the career ladder we're all supposed to be climbing
  • Some because they would feel like a 'failure' if they didn't
  • Some because they wanted the money, the title and/or the office
  • Some because they didn't want to report to the person who would get the role if they didn't take it
The result, of course, is that if you took the role for anything other than wanting to lead, you likely aren't going to find that your 'reason' results in your being a particularly good leader.  It is those few who lead because they truly like leading, the good and the bad of it, that are the remarkable leaders.  People talk about the need to find your 'why' in life, that if your why is strong enough it will provide the motivation you need to succeed at whatever you put in front of yourself.  This is true of leadership.  Examine your why.

2.  Learn to Listen.  A bigger title means that more people will feel compelled to listen to you.  However, there is much to learn by listening to others; their ideas, dreams and wants.  You can't know all there is to know about a situation unless you listen to the insights of others.  Show respect for those around you and listen fully and intentfully to what they have to share.

3.  Always be Fair in your Treatment of Others.  Note that I am not necessarily talking about treating people equally.  People are unique and have uniquely varying needs.  Providing equal treatment and time to each person may not address their needs, but treating their needs fairly might.  Providing equal day care to all would fail to address employees that no longer have a need for day care but would welcome assistance with the elder care issues they struggle with.  Although people may speak about the desire for equality in all things, it is actually a base of equality with a judicial application of fairness on top that creates a stand out leader.  

4.  Lead Through the Strengths of Others.  Job descriptions are deceptive, leading us to delegate according to what others 'should' be doing and not according to the strengths they bring to the table or to their potential. However, assessing the strengths of each team member, and ascertaining their undeveloped potential in other areas, gives you a better clue as to what to delegate to whom.  Assigning work according to strengths and potential not only gets better work done sooner but does more to develop your team than forcing someone to become mediocre at something they will never be great at, simply because it's on a job description.  

5.  Your Thinking Time is Critical Time.  Schedule time to 'think' or you will get caught up putting out fires all of the time.  This will feel important, but it will do nothing for moving you, your team or your organization forward.  If you want improvements, want to avoid stagnation, want to grow... then you need time to think about the situation and to actively seek out solutions.  Thinking time IS working time.  Make time for it.

My sincerest hope is that these Leadership Secrets help you to strengthen your leadership skills and potential.  However, bear in mind that I listed the first secret first because it is the key to your Leadership Success and is foundational to everything.  If you truly don't want to lead... don't be surprised by not being held up as the prime example of a Great Leader.  As with all things, we get what we want.  If you truly don't want to lead you're probably not going to be the best at it.  That said though, rekindle your interest in leading by taking time to explore what you DO like about it and use those small moments to jump start your interest.

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