How to Lead and How Not to Lead – Another of a periodic series

The most effective leaders, the ones who achieve the highest level of leadership, the Pinnacle level, are more than Authentic Leaders. They are Authentic Servant Leaders. They have turned their organizational chart upside down.  They put their people above themselves in the organization. 

Their impact on the organization far outlasts their time in the organization. Authentic Leaders make an impact but too often their impact leaves the organization with them. It is by serving the people you lead that you leave a legacy behind. 

But…that’s a whole lotta work. To be an Authentic Servant Leader you have to really want it. You have to sacrifice. You have to invest yourself in the success of other people. You have to give a healthy portion of your ego food to those you lead. You have to care for the people you lead. 

It’s far easier to manage the people who work for you. It’s not actually leading but so what, you’ve got a leadership position and a nice title and that’s what matters most. But people want consistency from their boss so it’s best to either always manage or always lead. Going back and forth will confuse your people. 

So here’s how to make certain they don’t sometimes see you as a leader. 

Never never never ask people to identify what they need to succeed. Avoid asking them how you can help them. As an experienced manager you know darn well that if you ask people what they need to succeed they will want more time, equipment and heaven help you, more money. Your experience tells you that if you give these people an inch, they will take a mile. 

Don’t get to know them as people. It’s best to think of them as an employee number. I wouldn’t call them by their number because it can be a lot of work to remember all those numbers. But never lose site of the fact that they are only a number. Thinking of them as people could get very confusing for you. They are only an asset, much like your computers and printers. Do not let your people even think you might care for them. 

Follow that advice and I promise you this, you may hold a leadership position but you will never be mistaken for an actual leader. 

Of course, you could always choose to make their lives better and your life more fulfilling by working to earn the right to Authentically Lead them. 

To Authentically Lead you must first understand the difference between managing and leading. We manage things. Things like budgets, buildings, equipment, inventories and the like. We lead people. Leading people requires that you care for them. You may care about the things you manage but you must care for people. Your people,  like you, can feel the difference between a boss who cares about them, like they care about the copier, and a leader who cares for them, like a human being. 

You can’t just tell your people that you care for them, you need to show it. 

You can do that by engaging with them frequently. By asking them how they are doing. Not necessarily at work,  but also how they are doing at life. Ask what you can do to help them, either at work or at life. Then do what Authentic Servant Leaders do…listen. Listen so intently that the person you’re speaking with gets the impression that in that moment, they are the only person in the world. 

Then do something else that Authentic Servant Leaders do…act on what you heard. Do everything you can possible do to meet the needs of your people. You asked and now they are waiting to see if your questions were for show or if your questions were to help them grow. 

If you can’t do what you were asked to do then do what Pinnacle level leaders do…go back and explain why and tell your people what you can do. A shrug of the shoulders and a sorry about that will not get it done. 

Once you’ve asked the questions that demonstrate you care, you have put yourself at the crossroads of your leadership journey. You will either move up the path towards Authentic Servant Leadership or down the path of a wannabe leader. 

The rewards for attempting to manage another human being are a position, a title and likely more money. The rewards for Authentically Leading others with a servant’s heart are limitless. You’ll make a positive impact on the lives of others. You will touch the lives of people you may never know. You will shape the future of your organization, for generations to come. You will be building more leaders who will build more leaders as well. Your leadership will far outlast you. Your life and leadership will have made a difference in the world.

The choice between leading people and trying to manage them is one that you must make for yourself. Pinnacle Level Leaders decide to leave a part of themselves behind when they are gone. They choose to give of themselves. In doing so they receive more in return than lesser leaders could ever imagine. 

So what will it be for you?

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

How to Spot an Authentic Servant Leader

In 2002 Pastor Rick Warren wrote an outstanding book entitled “The Purpose Driven Life.” I will always remember the very first sentence in the book… “It’s not about you.”

Every Authentic Servant Leader I’ve ever met, and I’ve been fortunate to meet a few, lived their leadership according to that simple sentence. They intentionally keep the focus on the accomplishments of the people they lead. They don’t simply share credit for success, they humbly give it all away. 

Authentic Servant Leaders measure their success by the success of their people. The goal of an Authentic Servant Leader is to grow people, to help them be “better” in every way a person can be better. 

They invest a piece of themselves in every person they lead. The do not prejudge anyone. They recognize that every individual has strengths and gifts. They work to make certain that their people are in positions where they can use their strengths. They do not set their people up to fail. 

Authentic Servant Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors and they can be a man or a woman. They can be old or young. They can come from the finest of formal educations or have a completely informal education. An Authentic Servant Leader could be almost anyone. But they are still easy to spot. 

You know one when you see one because they are they ones who through every word, every action and every interaction SHOW that they understand, without a doubt, that their leadership is not about them. It’s is always and only about the people they lead. 

If you aspire to be an Authentic Servant Leader then always always keep in mind, “It’s not about you.”

People Leadership

Leadership is about people and it’s only about people. No one can lead a company, they can only lead the people who make up the company. There are no “team leaders,” there are only leaders who lead the people on the team. 

Stuff, businesses, buildings and budgets need to be managed, people need to be led.

That’s why interpersonal skills are so critical for effective leadership. If you cannot relate to the people you’re leading then you won’t be leading them for long. Effective leaders know that communication is vital when attempting to relate to others. That’s why their efforts to improve their communication skills is never ending. 

Many people occupy leadership positions but it seems these days as if fewer and fewer of them actually attempt to truly lead. They issue edicts and write policies without so much as a thought of how it may impact the people they supposedly lead. 

Whether intentional or not the actions they take and the statements they make build barriers between them and the people they need to grow their organizations. 

Effective Authentic Leaders don’t merely occupy a leadership position, they actually lead. They build bridges between themselves and their people. They use their interpersonal skills to break through barriers. Once the barriers are down their excellent communication skills come into play. The seek first to understand the people they lead. They talk with them, not to them. They listen twice as much as they talk. They listen with more than their ears, they listen with their heart as well. 

Edicts and policies attempt to force the compliance of people. Interpersonal skills combined with thoughtful communication build the willing commitment of people. 

What amazes me most is how many people in leadership positions don’t even like the people they should be leading. They often refer to them with words and phrases meant to “put them in their place.” Poor leaders want the people who work for them to know that their “leader” is smarter than they will ever be. Poor leaders sentences are laced with I I I, as in I want, I will, I did this and on and on. 

Authentic Leaders not only like the people they lead, they care for them. Immensely. They refer to their people with words and phrases meant to build them up and help them see their full potential. Authentic Leaders want the people who work with them to believe they can accomplish anything, even one day surpassing the leader. Their sentences are full of words such as, we, ours, and us. You’ll seldom hear an “I” come out of their mouth. 

The next time you’re speaking with your team record what you say. Then listen to it with a critical ear. If your message is short on “we” “ours” and “us” then your people may perceive you as a person in a leadership position who doesn’t really lead…or care about them.

If that’s the case you’re costing your organization an opportunity to grow and you’re limiting the potential of the people you could be leading. You might be fine with that but if you’re not then you have work to do. 

That work will begin with a decision to change your thinking. You can reap the many rewards of actually leading people or you can suffer the unending consequences of treating your people like things. 

The choice, as always, is yours to make.

The Courage to Lead

You can find lots of articles on leadership that talk about the characteristics required to lead. I’ve written several myself. The two I most often write about are integrity and judgment. Asking which one is more important is a lot like asking which came first the chicken or the egg.

I personally think much of the poor judgment we see and hear about stems from a lack of integrity. People try to hide their lack of integrity and make very poor judgments in the attempt. Rather than be honest about a potential skill gap they try hiding it and once again, that attempt to deceive causes a ton of poor judgment.

Whatever leadership characteristic you think is most important I believe there is one characteristic that all effective leaders possess. That characteristic is courage.

Leading is hard. It’s hard because leadership is about people. You can manage stuff but people must be led. People, all people, are emotional. They have hopes, dreams, challenges, and worries.

If you’re leading them, truly leading, you’re dealing with your emotions, your dreams, your challenges, and your worries, PLUS theirs. That is not easy.

Sometimes conflicts will arise. Authentic Leaders have the courage to confront those conflicts head on. Authentic Servant Leaders have the courage to confront those conflicts head on with a healthy dose of compassion added in.

One of the most serious failings I see from people in leadership positions is lacking the courage to deal with conflicts or even potential conflicts. They will go to great lengths to ignore the situation. They will tell themselves that time will “fix” the problem. They will tell themselves and sometimes other people that “they aren’t baby sitters” and people just have to work these things out on their own. That’s NOT leading.

Making decisions is another area that often requires courageous leadership. When a person in a leadership decision lacks courage they often simply don’t make the decisions required of a leader. What they fail to realize is that not making a decision IS a decision and it’s very often a wrong decision.

Sometimes people in leadership positions lack the courage to say no. When asked for something they know isn’t possible they answer with a “we’ll see” or a “let me think about it.” They know that “no” will be an unpopular answer and they lack the courage to make unpopular decisions. That’s NOT leading either.

Some days leading requires a huge amount of courage. Some days not so much. But courage is a constant in all Authentic Leaders. Possessing the courage to lead is a leadership characteristic not considered often enough. But I’d put it in my top three most important characteristics for a leader.

What about you…do you believe a leader should possess courage?