Can You Lead You?

Before you can lead anyone else you must be able to lead yourself. Before you can lead up you must lead yourself exceptionally well.

Leading “up” simply means extending your influence to those above you in your organization. When you lead up you have much greater impact on your organization than your position might suggest. Your influence comes not from your title or position, it comes from the value that you bring to the entire organization. 

To lead yourself exceptionally well and earn the opportunity to lead up in your organization you must first learn to control your attitude. Your attitude is entirely your choice. If you don’t fully believe that then you have surrendered one of life’s greatest assets to the whims of other people’s moods and “stuff” over which you have no control. 

Yes, your attitude, or your positive attitude, can be one of your greatest assets. Your attitude shapes almost every decision you make. It can either add to or subtract from the ability you have to tackle the tough jobs required to lead up.

While you may not be able to control all the events of your day and you certainly can’t control the attitude of other people, you DO have COMPLETE control over YOUR attitude. 

To lead up you must learn to control your calendar. You must be able to say no to the often unimportant urgent things so you can focus on the truly important value adding activities where you can make a difference for the organization.

You must realize as a person looking to extend their influence that your words matter. As your influence within an organization grows your words will carry more weight. As you work to earn the opportunity to lead up you will need to choose your words with care because your credibility is fragile and the wrong word at the wrong time can damage it. 

If you’re going to lead yourself exceptionally well you must develop the discipline to think BEFORE you talk. Great leaders know that there is no way to “unsay” something that has been said and even worse, there is no way to “unhear” what has been heard. 

Think of it like this: if your words aren’t adding value to a conversation then what are they adding?

To lead yourself exceptionally well you must find balance in your life. You must lead your life according to your core values and goals. Your core values and goals are what allow you to set priorities in all areas of your life. Knowing, truly knowing, your core values and setting goals around them, allows you to make balanced decisions that reflect who you really are.

It will look to other people as if you “walk you talk,” it will look that way because you will be walking your talk. You might be able to fool some people for a while but when attempting to lead up, frauds are discovered pretty quickly. 

To lead yourself and to lead up, know who you are, know what you stand for and work everyday to be true to yourself. 

 

Are You Truly a Leader?

John Maxwell’s one word definition of leadership is this: Influence

I agree, sort of. Only sort of because what you do doesn’t make you a leader, why you do it does.

Dictionaries define influence as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Everyone has at least a little influence. We all have some effect the behavior of those around us, just as they have some effect on ours. We have that effect whether we intend to or not. So does that mean everyone is a leader whether they intend to be or not? I would say no.

That means we probably cannot define leadership with just one word. We need two.

Intentional influence. Okay, maybe we need three words…. Intentional directed influence.

Wandering around influencing others does not make you a leader. Being keenly aware of your influence and using it to intentionally change behavior and build character makes you a leader.

Now, for those of you who do not currently have a fancy title or top position and believe you need one to be a leader let me say this:

You don’t.

People don’t follow titles or positions. They follow people and the people they choose to follow are the ones who they believe care about them enough to help them succeed.

Now, for those of you who do have a title or position and believe that makes you a leader let me say this:

It doesn’t.

If your influence comes only from your title or position then you may be a manager, you may be a boss, but you’re almost certainly not a leader. Your title may give you a little higher level of influence temporarily but consider this…

If you lost your title, lost your position, lost your authority to reward and discipline, would you get the same results from the people around you? Would your influence level remain high? Would people still follow you?

Those are huge questions. To answer yes you need an amazing amount of confidence in your leadership ability. I hope you were able to answer yes. Be aware however, the brights lights of important sounding titles and lofty positions can blind even the most well intentioned person to their shortcomings. So if you answered yes I also hope your people would agree with you. If you AND your people agree then there can be no doubt; you are truly a leader.

Influencing others is a part of life, intentionally influencing others is the essence of leadership. Don’t squander your chance at leadership by just letting influence happen. Be intentional with how you influence, influence to build, influence to build people and organizations. Develop positive influence.

When your influence is positive your leadership can outlast you. That’s great leadership!