Leaders are Not Born
Vince Lombardi the great NFL Green Bay Packers head coach of the 1960’s said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
Leaders are created but as Seth Godin writes in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, “Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.” If you are not uncomfortable as a leader you probably aren’t reaching your potential. True leadership requires a dedication to personal development. It doesn’t have to all be done in a day, it’s the process of a lifetime.
Here are five areas that you can improve to become a stronger leader. Examine each one and then think about how you can continue to develop this area in your life and your leadership role.
1. Develop Your Self Control
David McKay says, “The most important of life’s battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” If you are not able to lead yourself how can you lead others? If you are unable to be self-controlled how can you expect it from those, you lead? A leader is a model and as such you must model self-control.
In order to be a great leader, you need integrity. That requires self-control and the ability to follow through. As difficult as it may be, you must have the discipline to be where you need to be, when you need to be there whether you want to or not. Choose to demonstrate follow through by modeling the process to those you lead.
If you say, you are going to do something then do it. Follow through and make it happen. The skill of following through is a great quality you want to see in those who are following you, therefore, model it for them.
You must develop yourself, so you can regulate your response to situations. Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, points out there is a gap between what we experience and our response. However small it is, it’s the space that gives you the opportunity to choose your response. Rather than merely reacting, you need to learn to choose your response. It’s not easy, but you can develop this area in your life..
2. Cast Your Vision
Of course, this means you need to have a vision to get started. If people can’t or don’t connect with your vision, there are going to be problems. You need to keep your vision in front of your team, your customers, your investors and yourself. All great leaders can keep their vision before those that choose to follow them.
One way to promote your vision is to involve your team in the process of planning and implementing your vision. Help them understand their place in the process. How does what they do contribute to the overall outcome. Consistently provide feedback regarding the progress and how each person is helping make it happen.
3. Provide Feedback that Moves People and Processes Forward
The way you praise and criticize others can make all the difference in your ability to lead effectively. Be willing to take the time to provide feedback that uses a strength’s perspective. If you focus on strengths when providing feedback, it creates an opportunity to examine struggles from the perspective of each person’s strengths. Consider each person’s hopes, values, talents, vision, and possibilities when delivering feedback. Often an individual’s strengths are a resource they can utilize in dealing with a shortcoming.
4. Step Into Your Teams Shoes
You won’t be able to engage your team members unless you take the time to sit with them from time to time. Get to know them. Learn about their hopes, dreams, visions, struggles, family and outside interests. Get to know them because it will go a long way in developing your influence with them. You want people to follow you because you lead them not because you have a position of authority. To do this new need to spend time in their shoes, so to speak.
Take the time to get together with your team in some casual non-business settings. You don’t need an agenda, just let people be people. The more natural it is, the more beneficial it will be. Take the time to sit down and engage with a team member who can help you work through a challenge you are facing. Open up to them and ask for their input on the issue. Let them know you respect them and think they have something to offer that can help resolve the challenge. Not only does this build trust, but you are also mentoring them which is productive for everyone involved.
5. Make the Hard Calls
There will be times when you need to make difficult decisions. Don’t always trust your initial response. Even if the decision needs to be made quickly, take a few minutes to pause, reflect and consider other alternatives. Then give them each a quick evaluation. If you have more time talk it over with other key people in your personal or work life who you can trust. Make a decision and live with it. Sometimes your decision will pan out and other times it won’t. No one is perfect, and you must expect that you will make decisions that won’t work. Other times some people might not like your decisions, but you must hold true to your vision and not allow other peoples ideas misdirect you down another path.
Leadership is ultimately all about influence. Treat others with respect and put them first. Take the time to step into the shoes of your team. Take the time to see things from their perspective. Develop ever greater self-discipline and cast your vision before yourself and your team. Real learning can be uncomfortable because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, but this is what keeps you qualified to lead. Choose one of the five topics and continue developing your leadership skills today.
Photo credit: Thanks for the photo, Julian Santa Ana.