First Person Leadership

If the first person you lead each morning isn’t yourself then you’re likely having challenges leading anyone. 

 

You must lead yourself exceptionally well before you can lead anyone else. 

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means doing what you say you’re going to do. It means controlling your attitude and choosing to do what you must to make certain your attitude is as positive as it can be. 

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means thinking before you speak. It means choosing your words in such a way as to lift people up and not tear them down. It means considering the impact of what you say and the even greater impact of how you say it.  

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means applying rules and policies equally with all of your people. It also means holding yourself 100% accountable to those same rules and policies. 

 

To lead yourself exceptionally well you must manage your emotions. You should avoid using your passion as an excuse for losing emotional control. As a leader you must know that you are the model of successful behavior. When you lose control of your thoughts and words you give license to your people to do the same.

 

To lead yourself exceptionally well you must prioritize those things that are important ahead of the things that are merely urgent. Never sacrifice the long-term growth of your people for the short-term growth of your business. It’s your people who will grow your business for the long haul. 

 

Leading yourself exceptionally well means realizing that time is one of your greatest assets. It means not allowing anyone or anything to steal that asset from you. It means you won’t use lack of time as an excuse for poor prioritization skills. Decisions on how you invest your time are principle based and focused on your goals and objectives. Leading yourself exceptionally well means never mistaking being busy for being produced. 

 

As a First Person Leader you can never lose site of the fact that if you’re not leading yourself exceptionally well you can’t lead anyone else well either. Check yourself each morning and make sure that you’re meeting the same standards you expect of others. 


It’s how you earn the right to lead!


Are You a Manager Who Thinks They are Leading?

If you’re doing it for your business, it’s managing. If you’re doing it for your people, it’s leading.

 

You would be hard pressed today to find many people complaining about being “over-led.” You would not however have to look very far to discover groups of people feeling as if they are “over-managed” on a daily basis. It amazes me that after decades of discussion about the difference between managing and leading most organizations today remain over-managed and under-led.

 

Much has been written regarding the differences between managing and leading. Some people, a few of them very knowledgeable in the ways of business, will still tell you there is no difference, that it is all semantics. The number of those people shrink every year. With the Millennial generation now assuming leadership roles it will be shrinking even faster. The good news is that today more people than ever, followers and leaders alike, would say that without a doubt there is a difference and it’s huge.

 

What is the difference? Let’s begin by explaining what leadership is not. It is not about a great personality or striking charisma. While a great personality and a bit of charisma can certainly help a leader’s cause, they are not absolute requirements for a leader. Leadership is also not a replacement for management. Both leadership and management are essential for success and that is even truer in challenging business environments. Finally, leadership is not a set of intangible skills that are hard to describe. Leadership skills are every bit as tangible as those of the most successful managers.

 

In a nutshell you manage stuff and you lead people. Leadership is about people, developing people, coaching people, nurturing people, and helping common people achieve uncommon results. 

 

Managing is about coping with the current situation. Leadership is about defining the future. Good managers use processes and control systems to make certain things “run” as designed. Leaders see things as they are and ask “how can we do better?” Managers follow and encourage others to follow the plan. Leaders develop the plan and that plan closely resembles their vision of the future for the organization. 

 

Managing is about helping good people do well. Leadership is about helping good people become great. Managers “assign” tasks to achieve planned for results. Leaders “delegate” tasks to help their people grow. Managers spend time on their people to ensure the tasks are accomplished. Leaders invest time with their people to enable them to excel and surpass the requirements of the task. Managers organize their people according to the task, in the hope that they succeed. Leaders align their people according to their strengths to ensure that they succeed.

 

Here’s a quick check for you. If you have a person working for you who is struggling and you think to yourself that you’re going to have to spend time on them to “fix” them, then you have a managerial mindset when it comes to your people. If however when thinking of that same person you think to yourself, I want to invest time with that person in order to help them develop, then you have a leadership mindset about your people. 

 

Well-managed people and organizations can survive tough times. Well-led people and organizations can thrive in tough times. Good organizations have people that excel as managers and people that excel as leaders. Great organizations have people that excel as managers and leaders. While the skill set of a manager is different than the skill set of a leader many people indeed possess both. They move seamlessly between mindsets as they grow their business by growing their people. 

 

True success as a leader is only possible when we realize that what makes us a good manager will not make us a great leader. The most successful people have developed themselves in both areas. 

 

What about you?

Authentic Followership

Your title may sound impressive. Your title may come with a substantial income. Your title may gain you entry into elite places and even get you VIP treatment in some of those places. 

 

But what your title doesn’t do is make you a leader. 

 

All the same things can be said about the position you hold within your organization. Even positions at the very top of an organization aren’t truly leadership positions unless the person who occupies the position makes the effort required to lead. 

 

People don’t follow positions or titles. People follow people. 

 

The absolute number one leadership mistake a person can make is believing that their title or position makes them a leader. Titles and positions can make you a boss but only authentic followers can make you a leader. 

 

What I mean by “authentic follower” is a person who is committed to you personally. They realize that you care about them and have their interests in mind with just about every decision you make. 

 

An inauthentic follower is someone below or behind you in the organization that “complies” with your directives. They only comply because they fear the consequences if they don’t. You might believe they are following but when you need them you turn around and see that they aren’t really there.

 

If you’re someone who has the audacity to label themselves a leader then their lack of commitment is on you, not them. Perhaps you believed they “had” to follow you because you hold a position above them in the organization. 

 

That belief is likely the second biggest leadership mistake a person can make. NO ONE can be forced to follow you. Authentic Followership requires a commitment on the part of the follower AND the leader. You can’t force anyone to commit to you. 

 

If you want Authentic Followership then you’ll need to practice Authentic Leadership. That means demonstrating that you care about your people. That means keeping your lines of communication open and crystal clear. It means understanding that you’re responsible not only for your own success but for the success of the people you lead as well.

 

If you’re an Authentic Leader you’re even more excited when one of your followers excel than you are when you excel yourself. If you’re an Authentic Leader you have a vision to share with potential followers. That vision includes benefits for those who become Authentic Followers. 

 

If you’re an Authentic Leader there is little doubt that you have Authentic Followers. When you count on your title or position to earn you followers then it may appear as if you’re leading but when you turn around you’ll see there is nobody there.


If you’re wondering if you’re an Authentic Leader there is an easy way to find out….ask the people you think are following you. If they struggle to provide you with ready answers then it’s likely you have some work left to do. You will need to change your ways if you want to add Authentic Leader to whatever title you’ve been using to gain the compliance of your people. 

I Dare You to Lead

 

I dare you to lead…from right where you are. I dare you to lead…with just the skills you have available to you today. I dare you to lead…with the title and position you have today…even if you have no title and no position. I dare you to lead…this very minute! 

 

We don’t need more leaders in the world. What we need is for more leaders to lead. Most leaders today are leaders in waiting. They are waiting for the title that will make them a leader. They are waiting for “leadership skills” to somehow magically appear. They are waiting for the right “opportunity” to come along and then they will spring into leadership action. 

 

For some of the leaders the waiting may seem necessary. Others know that they are simply procrastinating. Still others are hiding from their fear of failing as a leader behind the safety net of waiting. 

 

Whatever their reasons the waiting is usually an excuse. No one who possesses the ability to influence another person need wait one more second. They can chose to lead right now, today.

 

Nothing makes you a leader but leading. Don’t buy into the myth that you need a lofty position or a fancy sounding title to lead. No title, no position, no timing and no opportunity can make you a leader. 

 

You must decide to lead. When you suddenly start leading there may be people in your sphere of influence who are offended. Lead anyway.

 

People like me can’t really “teach” leadership. We can only talk about how to lead. We can only explain the common characteristics of authentic leaders.  We can only describe the frequently repeated mistakes of poor leaders. 

 

But the only way to truly learn how to lead is to lead. Deal with your mistakes along the way, learn from them and lead better the next day. If you’re waiting until you are comfortable with your leadership skills and completely confident in your leadership abilities, then you may never lead at all. 

 

Authentic Leaders are often less than comfortable and completely confident with all the decisions they make and all the actions they take. They lead anyway! 

 

There has never been a great leader who was great on their first day of leading. Everyone learns along the way. Don’t wait until you think you’re good enough. Begin leading today and dedicate yourself to working hard to become the leader you’ve been waiting to become. 


I dare you!


Can a Leader Over Communicate?

A few weeks back the local newspaper in Minneapolis published a story on the best companies to work for in Minnesota. There were big companies, medium size and very small companies listed. 

 

They were from a variety of industries with many of the companies having a very diverse workforce, even the smaller ones. Some had leaders who had been at the helm a long time while others had newer leadership. There were many differences in the various organizations. 

 

But there was one thing that all, that’s all, as in every, organization seemed to have in common. When employees of organizations on the list were interviewed they all spoke of the importance of communication. 

 

A good work environment is dependent upon many factors. None are more important than open, consistent, and honest communication. 

 

“Work” is a vital part of most people’s lives. They spend, or hopefully, invest, a large percentage of their waking hours there. People have this space within them that holds the information they deem vital for their lives. Since work is vital they must have as much information as possible about where they work. They need to know how the organization is doing, if it’s stable, if it’s growing and what the future holds. If that information isn’t supplied for them then they fill the gap themselves, often with rumor.

 

Information is the enemy of rumor. If you don’t like rumors running around your organization then the fastest way to smother them is with accurate information.

 

I’ve known many people in leadership positions who believed and still believe that information is power. They believe that knowing something that their people don’t makes them more important. Some believe it makes them smarter and more indispensable. Others believe that “secrets” must be kept because it’s “best” to keep employees guessing. I knew a senior leader years ago who literally told me a key part of his job was to keep his people guessing about what he wanted from them. That’s crazy!

 

There is little information that must be kept secret. Yes, there are some legalities involved, especially for publicly held companies. But overall there is a lot more information withheld from an organization’s people than needs to be. 

 

Leaders should never withhold information from their people only for the sake of withholding it. Most leaders are very good about not being careless with information that must be protected. Most leaders are also very very careless about sharing information that their people need to know. They mindlessly forget how important the organization is to their people. Sometimes they simply lack the empathy needed to understand the importance of communication.

 

There have never been more avenues of communication available for leaders of organizations than there are today. Depending on the size of your organization you can email a brief weekly newsletter to your team or post a weekly blog on your company intranet. You can develop your own social media site for your organization. You can create a podcast for senior leaders to update people on what’s happening with the business. 

 

The key is consistent, regular and frequent, very frequent, communication. The younger your employees the more they crave that communication. Once a year or even once a quarter does not get it done anymore. 

 

There is no excuse for not communicating with your people. Unless of course you’re simply too busy. If that’s the case and you’re too busy to connect with your people then you need to realize that your also too busy to lead.


The answer to the question that makes up the title of this post NO, a leader cannot, absolutely cannot, over communicate.

Do You Have the Trust of Your People?

Emerson said, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single person. An individual’s character determines the character of the organization.” Is your’s the shadow that Emerson was talking about? 

 

If you’re in any leadership position you should know that you cast a large shadow on those who follow you. Your shadow can either shade them from difficulties or make their work environment a very dark place. 

 

It all depends on the level of trust YOU create with your people.

 

Only 45% of 400 managers in a Carnegie-Mellon survey trusted their top management. A third distrusted their immediate bosses. I truly hope your people trust you but you can’t lead by merely hoping you’re trusted. You must work intentionally, every day, to earn the trust and respect of the people you lead.

 

That trust can only come from a consistent display of integrity. Your integrity comes from your actions, not your image and not the statements you make. Your people will do what they see you doing far faster than they will do what you ask them to do.

 

When what you say doesn’t match what you do then you can be certain they will do what you did and not what you said to do.

 

When thinking about the quality of your own integrity consider these questions.

  • Are you the same person no matter who you are with?  
  • Do you make decisions that are best for others when another choice would benefit you?  
  • Do recognize others for their efforts and contributions to your success? (In writing?) 

Image is what people think you are, integrity is what you really are.  Asking yourself these three questions can help keep you on track and ensure that your image matches your level of integrity. 

 

Here is one reason integrity is so important for a leader: Integrity has huge influence value. If you have the ability to influence others then your ability to lead is unlimited. Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever.

 

Integrity is a hard-won achievement; it takes a long time to establish it with your team and you never fully complete the task. You must work on your integrity every day because while it’s a long process to earn it, you can lose it overnight.

 

It’s also a good idea to seek input from others about your integrity. You won’t always see yourself the same way that others may see you. So ask someone who knows you well, in what areas of your life they see you as consistent. (you do what you say) In what areas they see as inconsistent (you say but don’t always live.) 


If you don’t like their answers remember, you can change. You can become the leader you want to be, but also remember, you will only become what you are becoming right now.

 

 

 


Do You Know What’s Really Going On?

Not everyone in a leadership position is actually in touch with the “realities” of their organization. They think they know what’s going on but as Mark Twain said it’s not what they don’t know that gets them in trouble, it’s what they know that just ain’t so. 

 

There are a lot of reasons that happens but regardless of the reasons, if the situation continues for too long a time those leaders end up with an actively disengaged team. Yep, actively disengaged, not only do they look for ways to unplug, they try, even subconsciously, to help those around them disengage too. 

 

So, how about you, do you really know what’s going on in your organization?      

 

Can you list at least five challenges your front-line employees currently face, and what’s being done to resolve them? If you can’t it might be a sign that you’re not in touch with the people in your organization who really know what’s going on. The good news is that an easy fix exists for that situation… get out from behind your desk and go and talk to them. Skip the org charts, bypass their boss and their bosses’ boss, go directly to the source. Ask them!

 

Can you think of three recent examples of someone below you in the organization disagreeing with you? If not then they may not have the courage to speak up. That could be because of you or it could be because of them. Either way you need to find a way to encourage them to speak up. If you can’t then you may never know what is really going on in your organization. 

 

If you were asked could you share several examples of how your thinking has changed due to employee feedback. No can do? Then it’s likely there’s a gap between what you say about the importance of employee feedback and what you actually do to encourage it. If you’re not receiving feedback from a very wide variety of people in your organization then it’s very likely that you don’t really know what’s happening in your organization. 

 

Every leader has an occasional lapse in awareness. You can minimize yours by frequently using these checkpoints to keep yourself plugged into reality. You will never know what’s really going on in your organization if you’re only communicating with your other top leaders. They may be just as unaware as you. 


If your team knows you “get it” your credibility goes way up and your ability to lead and their willingness to follow goes way up with it.