When I first went to school, I wanted to be the line leader. I wanted everyone to follow me. That worked great for about one day.
And then…I quickly learned my first leadership lesson.
You see, I did get to be the leader, but only until it was the next person’s turn.
My lesson that day: True leadership is not about positional authority. Once I lost my title, I also lost my following.
In the decades since, I have learned that leadership is so much more than being the line leader.
It is about…
Listening, learning, and loyalty.
It is about listening to your people and learning from them. And it’s about being just as loyal to them as you expect them to be to you. If someone on your team makes an honest mistake, do they know you have their back…or do you throw them under the bus? Show me a leader who is loyal to his team, and I will show you mutual respect.
Energizing the team.
Take a look around. Is your team excited and engaged, or are they dragging in late, showing signs of boredom (or burnout), and producing weak results? It is your job as a leader to create an energetic team. It starts with selecting the right candidate for each position, ensuring they are working within their strengths zone a majority of the time. It continues with ensuring they have good training for the position, and good mentorship as they grow in that position and beyond. It’s also about caring for them as individuals so you know what provides energy in their work and what drains them.
Adhering to principles.
There’s a saying, “Be loyal to principles, not institutions.” Institutions change. People change. Circumstances change. But principles do not change. Know your core principles and operate from them.
Decision making – wise, quick decision making.
Here’s the bottom line: leaders are the decision makers. They must be. But what kind of decision maker are you? Do you give yourself a little time to weigh your options and get wise counsel, or do you just make decisions off the cuff? Do you consider the repercussions of your decisions before making them known? A good leader makes quick decisions, but just as importantly, a good leader makes wise decisions.
Enlisting help when you don’t have all the answers…because you don’t have all the answers.
A good leader is not the person who knows the most. It’s the person who knows to surround himself or herself with those who are experts in diverse areas. A strong leader can only go so far…but a strong team is exponentially more powerful than the individual.
Requiring as much (or more) of yourself than you do of your team.
We have all known them – those who say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” The fact is, the leader must set the example. Raise the bar higher on yourself than on your team. Why? Because if you do that, they will rise to your level.
Setting an example worth following.
I remember back in the Ronald Reagan era hearing songs of patriotism that you just do not hear anymore. You may not have agreed with his politics, but as a leader, he set a great example for our country, and you likely respected him. So, by the way, did the rest of the world.
Helping others grow.
Your people are not your competitors. Your goal should not be to keep your people down, but, rather, to lift them up to your level. How do you do this? You train them, mentor them, and communicate with them. It is not about competition; it is about collaboration.
Influencing others to pursue the vision right along with you.
Before you can influence others to pursue a vision, you must be clear on it yourself. Are you? Once it is clear, communicate it to your team. Have a vision that excites you, and share that excitement with your team.
Providing an environment where your people can grow and work in their strengths.
The job of a leader is to build a strong team, and strong teams come from strong individuals. It’s about hiring the right people, placing them in a position and environment that allows them to work in their strengths, and then helping them push beyond their comfort zone to growth. If you are reprimanding more than recognizing great efforts, something in the formula is missing.
Are you leading beyond just being a line leader?