Most people in leadership positions I encounter are not leaders. They are managers. This is not to say they are bad at their job. Some are in fact quite good. Problem is that while they help sh*t run well, they don’t grow. They don’t grow themselves and they don’t grow their organization.
I’ve experienced this a lot as a public school teacher. Many principals, assistant principals, and school district level administrators focus on efficiency and productivity while talking about improvement. They fail to recognize that as leaders, their main focus should always be on constant improvement. Don’t get me wrong; they all talk about it. Few however, actually live the principle of growing themselves, the people they are meant to lead, and their organization.
So how do you become a leader? How do you ensure you grow as a result of your interactions with those you lead and how do you in turn help those around you grow?
This one’s hard, because it’s in our nature to get defensive when our views or decisions are challenged. Remember fight or flight? Defensiveness is one of the side effects.
But welcoming disagreement and the discomfort it brings is a true mark of a leader. To become one, welcome such challenges and navigate them in a way that allows everyone to feel included in the decision making and moves the team toward a new understanding.
Guiding differing opinions toward a productive end requires that all parties save face and feel respected. You can, and sometimes should, disagree with your team’s proposals, but if you try to win the argument, you might lose their collaboration and commitment.
As this is something you mustn’t allow, take time to think before making final decisions. Draw on the times you worked well together and thank your people for their effort. Most importantly, be completely transparent when explaining why you decided to go a different route.
As an employee, I have been managed by people who made me feel small. All I could think about at those times was how much I despised them and hated those jobs. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure everyone in the organization is treated well and no one is made to feel inferior.
value and make others feel valued
Say less. Listen more. Lean in. Restate others’ talking points, but don’t interrupt. Be curious. Ask for clarification and elaboration. Don’t judge. As a leader, you need to be open to all kinds of ideas and practice active listening. When your people feel heard, they feel valued.
So hear them out. Even if they come to you in distress and spew hard feelings, make an effort to understand, validate, and affirm. As a leader, you often have to take on the responsibility of helping others process negative and positive feelings alike.
Additionally, make sure the ones you lead know you value them as people and appreciate their efforts. Find the time to talk with them. Bring up specific examples of how they contributed in the past. Thank them.
To understand the power of this, think about the places you worked at and didn’t know how the leaders felt about you. Did they think you were doing a good job? Did they think you mattered? Did you feel you mattered?
Now, recall a time when you were appreciated by someone in charge. He or she praised and thanked you for your hard work. They engaged in small talk and you felt they’re just a person like you.
Adding value to others makes all the difference.
lead with integrity
Be authentic and honest in everything you do, because as soon as you start compromising your values, you regress from a leader to a manager and the organization regresses with you.
Get used to and be ready to accept responsibility for things you are directly responsible for and those you delegate to others. After all, you’re in charge, so accept your shortcomings, admit your mistakes, and apologize for your misjudgements.
There will be times you’ll face tough decisions that may put you at risk. Will you be able to place the good of the many over your self preservation?
Welcome disagreement. Value and make others feel valued. Lead with integrity.
It is only when you recognize, embrace, and exemplify these truths, can you become a leader capable of leading the organization and its people toward true progress.
Channeling my inner Yoda, I leave you with this...
You can manage things, but people you must lead. - Yoda
You have the power to change the world. Use it often.
This is an excerpt from my book "The Power Of Three: How to Simplify Your Life and Amplify Your Personal and Professional Success" available on Amazon. Click here to check it out. Hope you enjoyed this excerpt and thanks for reading!