I have to be honest with you. I have come to believe that today’s leader is so much more afraid of being liked than they are of leading. You may read that statement and wonder where I get this thought from. I was recently speaking to a group of leaders in a Fortune 500 Financial Services Company on the topic of authentic leadership.
The room was filled with emerging leaders who were so afraid that if they lead in a style that suited them, they’d hear about it in an upcoming performance appraisal.
I have to admit, this immediately sent me back to my days walking the halls of Corporate America and I remember the day that as my favorite Robert Frost poem states, I took the road less traveled by. On that day, I’d just left my department manager’s office after having ben scolded for not following my gut. My reason: I thought the goal was to “play it safe.”
There were many themes that ran through that conversation but what I clearly heard was that I had been empowered to make the decision that I felt best suited the organization. And so, I began to manage like I was the company CEO. And that, Incredible One, made all the difference in my remaining tenure with the company.
A shift occurred in me. By beginning to think like it was my company, I began to create strategies to advance my team and department. The shift, also known as the strategic alignment between my gifts, talents, abilities and skills and the overall goals of the organization finally came into line. I began to understand why it was incumbent upon me to lead my team. As a result of my non-negotiable decision to lead in my strengths, I identified five success strategies that I use today when speaking to emerging, expanding or executive leaders.
1. Exude Confidence. When you are a leader, confidence must be in long supply. No one is looking to follow a person who is unsure of the difference they make and the value they add to the organization. When you understand your gifts, values, abilities and talents, you can confidently take action. The best way to exude confidence is to take the time to complete a self assessment which helps you to clearly identify your strengths and how those strengths have the ability to shift the organization. Confidence is an attitude and your attitude accounts for 95% of your success in life and business. Ask yourself: What do I need to shift within myself to become more confident?
2. Understand the overall goals and objectives before setting out to perform any task . Understanding the reason why you are doing something makes doing it more meaningful. True leaders ask questions, synthesize responses and position themselves to act in a way that will advance the overall goal. Leaders who understand the goal and their strengths in the accomplishment of the goal are better equipped to delegate and implement so that the task is completed in a timely manner, creating a win-win for everyone involved.
3. Back into Leadership. While there are many who’d argue that leaders lead from the front, I believe that true leaders, leaders that build peak performing teams lead from the back. Let me explain. Outside of the obvious that if you are behind your team you can identify opportunities for improvement, leading from the back is also about taking my second strategy and “backing in” to a plan that will make achieving the goal easier to achieve. Think about the Stephen Covey-ism – begin with the end in mind, When you are clear about the overall ending goal, you can devise a strategy that is much more robust. Think of a GPS – you have to know where you are going before it can calculate the best route to take. Leading this way, will give you an edge that consistently ensures goal achievement.
4. Be willing to fail. I know, I know; another tired cliche. Forgive me. The best way to leader others and influence results is to be willing to fail. In my expert opinion, failure is nothing more than feedback. An opportunity to tweak small miscalculations and get closer to the attainment of your goal.
5. Act in the best interest of the customer, team, department or company. When you are a leader, it’s not about you. It’s about those who will change lives because of your leadership. Regardless of the type of company you work for, the work you do makes a difference and if you always act in the best interest of them, you will never lead your team astray. What kills a good leader? Pride and arrogance and a belief that he/she alone is solely responsible for the success of a project. That is a lie; remember you’re only as strong as your weakest team member.
When it comes to shifting beyond the leadership status quo, these five strategies will help you to build a strong, effective, confident and capable team that is ready to ride with you until the completion of the goal and the success of the organization.
So, what say you? I’d love to hear what strategies have worked for you in becoming a successful leader. Leave me a comment below.