Every person is a leader in some area of life. This leadership could be found in areas like family, business, community, sports teams, spiritual institutions, or academics. The choice is not whether you will lead, but how you lead. Even those who refuse to lead will unintentionally influence others, likely in a negative way. The real question is whether your leadership is valuable or detrimental to others who follow.
When I accepted my first full time job after graduation, in a large corporation, I did not picture myself as a leader. I was the youngest in my department, with no professional job experience and no family and few friends in my new location. I soon learned that my supervisor had a different view. His expectation was that I would take the lead on projects and work that he assigned me. Not much later, I married and started a family. I soon realized that leadership was unavoidable at work or at home. The only choice I had was to embrace the responsibility and become a good leader or disown my responsibility to produce a negative result.
Imagine leadership as a rough-cut jewel. If the stone is left alone in its natural state, the value of the jewel may not be recognized. Its beauty is only revealed when the stone is carefully cut in different facets. When light is focused on the carefully crafted jewel, it reflects the beauty of the stone. Leadership is not about the leader, but about the enhanced value and beauty reflected upon others.
In leadership, consider three significant facets that help to reflect the value and beauty of others.
If you are already the known leader, people inside and outside the organization appeal to you for permission to make decisions about resources, priorities, and projects.
The challenge: when do you make the decision or when do you delegate that decision to the person responsible in your organization?
Your answer will determine the value of your team member whom you have given the responsibility to. Assigning responsibility without the decision-making authority will de-value your worker. At a minimum, you will need to ask for their input before deciding. If the decision affects the alignment of the vision for your organization, you will likely need to weigh in. As much as possible, let your team members decide and inform the one who appealed to you. That will communicate trust to the individual, their co-workers, and the people outside the organization. If you make that the pattern of trust, more decisions will be made at the team level and free you up for more strategic issues.
Some leaders think that a quarterly appreciation program for workers or an “employee of the month award” satisfies their requirement to appreciate team members.
The challenge: Do you regularly and naturally communicate your appreciation for those who assist you in executing the vision of the organization?
Appreciation has to be authentic and credible. Hollow praise and empty slogans will be understood for what they are: manipulative! Take time to think about your team members and reflect on what their strengths are that you rely on. Then your praise will spring from your appreciative attitude. If you can’t think of any positive areas, it is time to have a discussion with them about their performance. Appreciation can be expressed either in positive affirmation or through a challenge to improve. Leadership is not about making people comfortable but in stretching them to higher achievement. By regularly showing appreciation, the morale and productivity of your organization will accelerate.
An organization that I worked with in assessing their leaders scored the lowest competency rating in the area of developing others.
The challenge: Do you personally focus your time on identifying and developing leaders in your organization?
Many leaders or companies provide access to learning for their followers. The trend with large companies is to designate “talent coordinators” who search for those who may have high potential for leadership ability. While that is helpful, you will need to personally focus on developing leaders for your organization. The first step is to model good leadership that all people in your team can follow. Be transparent in how you influence others both inside and outside the organization. Keep alert for potential leaders and develop plans for accelerating their growth. Share with them research on leadership including the previous articles on “Strong Advice” website regarding the different types of leadership styles. Don’t just rely on your judgment to identify leadership talent. Obtain other viewpoints through the use of self-assessments and objective information through assessment centres. By your intentional efforts to develop others, especially in leadership, you will have the capability to expand as your vision for the organization expands.
Leadership can be more valuable than a diamond when you carefully and consistently craft into each week the three facets of empowering, appreciating, and developing others. Regardless of your personality or style, these facets will shape your weekly routine as you become a more effective leader.