Fast Leadership

Are you a leader in a hurry? Are you rushing to lead? Do you feel urgency to “get your people up to speed?”

 

Those are all normal circumstances for many leaders, particularly new leaders. But here’s a word of caution. If you go too fast, if you get too far out in front of your people, if you’re dragging them along more than pulling them along you might not be leading them at all. 

 

You may want to consider slowing down to speed up your leadership potential. If your people can only see your back it makes it hard for them to hear what you’re saying. If your people are constantly looking at your back it will be hard for you to show them that you care for them. 

 

If you never slow down enough for your people to catch up then when you do eventually turn around you’ll discover there is no one there. You will have lost the opportunity to lead.

 

Inexperienced leaders often feel that leadership requires them to be out front at all times. More experienced and successful leaders would tell you that you lead from the middle at times. Other times you’ll have more success actually leading from the rear. 

 

Living out front all the time makes it harder to connect with your people. It separates you from them and only provides you with a one dimensional view of their capabilities. It doesn’t take long for your people to believe you’re disconnected from their world and they are most likely right about that. 

 

It’s tough to coach from out front. The farther out front you are the tougher it is. You’ll discover it’s far more effective to coach your people when you’re along side of them. Your closeness will indicate you care and make it much harder for your people to claim you don’t understand what they are going through. 

 

Sometimes your people will need a push and they only place you can push them when you’re out front is to the rear. To push them forward you must be leading them from the rear. It takes an Authentic Leader to let their people be out front but out front is where the real growth takes place. 

 

Look around. Are some of your people along side of you? Are some of them in front of you? Are they all behind you? Are some of them way behind you? Are all of them way way behind you?

 

If you don’t like the answers to those questions then perhaps you need to slow down a bit and realize that leading people isn’t a sprint, it’s more like a marathon. It takes perseverance and stamina and heart. 


Do you have what it takes to authentically lead? Slow down a bit and consider your answer to that question before rushing to the front of the pack. 

Leadership Execution

There are many things that can cause a leader to fail. One of those things, and one that is not often talked about, is lack of execution.  

 

Holding a leadership position doesn’t automatically make someone more disciplined. Leaders may be superior vision casters but if they don’t have a solid plan to make that vision happen then their vision soon becomes clouded. If they do have a plan then they must also have the discipline to follow it. Many leaders don’t have the required discipline needed to execute their plan. 

 

Leaders also sometimes focus on less significant things at the expense of the things that really matter. I’ve literally seen leaders who were more concerned about what’s on the buffet table at lunch than they were about the content of a meeting. Some things matter more than others and leaders who execute well can tell the difference between the two. 

 

Another reason some leaders don’t execute well is that they don’t have the right people in the proper roles to make their vision come to life. Many leaders, perhaps even most leaders fail to realize the importance of placing people in roles where they have an opportunity to use their strengths. 

 

A large majority of people within an organization are promoted because they were good at what there were doing before the promotion. The assumption is that because there were good in one role they will be good in another role too. That may be partially true but there is more to consider. Much more.

 

Let’s say a person was a particularly skilled customer service representative. You recognize that skill and promote them to a leadership role within the customer service department. Their customer service skills may still shine but are they also good at helping other people shine as well? 

 

Your first level of execution may have been spot on. But if the people you put into leadership positions can’t help other people develop then your second level of execution is lacking. If you have potential superstar performers being “led” by people who aren’t truly leaders then your second level of execution is severely lacking. 

 

If your future top performers are not being led by your very best leaders then you’ve not only missed the boat on execution you didn’t even make it to the dock. One of two things will happen when your future top performers are being “led” by non leaders. The first one is their star will simply burn out; they stay with your organization but their potential has now been tamped down to almost nothing. The second and more likely result of potential superstars not being developed by the people above them is that they leave your organization and go on to succeed somewhere else.

 

How long do you think an organization can withstand that type of poor execution?

 

Leaders who execute well are two or three or four steps ahead of leaders who don’t. They not only consider the consequences of their decisions they consider the consequences of the consequences of the consequences. 


Successful leaders develop their plan and focus on the end goal to help themselves stay disciplined. They prioritize well and never let small things obscure the important ones. And most importantly, they grow their people on the way to success through solid execution with every level of their organization. 


The Myth of Influence

When asked to provide a definition of leadership I most often describe it as influence. I add that if you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. 

Ken Blanchard, the renowned American Leadership expert and author of “The One Minute Manager” says that “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

Experienced leaders know that to be true. They also know that whatever influence they have comes from who they are not what they are. They know that their title or position provides no lasting influence. People with little or no leadership experience tend to greatly overestimate the importance of an important sounding title when it comes to influence. 

People with little or no leadership experience assume that if they had a title or a position of leadership then they would have influence too. That’s a myth!

Influence must be earned and a position merely gives you a chance to do that. A position or title gives you the opportunity to earn the respect required to have lasting influence. It gives you a bit of time to demonstrate you deserve to be trusted but in that time you will earn your level of influence whatever level it turns out to be. 

Good leaders earn influence beyond their stated position. They quickly learn that a position doesn’t make a leader but a leader can make a position. 

In order to grow your influence you must first build trust. People who do not trust you will not be open to your influence. To build trust you must do what you say you will do…every time. Consistently following through on your commitments is the fastest way to build your reputation. Being inconsistent when following through with commitments is the fastest way to destroy it. 

Doing something grows influence far faster than saying something. You can be an awesome speaker but words alone will never grow your influence. You need to speak through your actions and when your words and actions are in alignment your level of influence is limitless. 

One often overlooked skill that will quickly grow your level of influence is the skill of listening. You can’t influence people you have zero relationships with. One of the fastest ways to develop a meaningful relationship with someone is to listen to them. REALLY listen. 

Listen as if they are the only person who matters in that moment. Listen to every opinion and acknowledge it as important and valuable. You’ll quickly discover that the fastest way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them. Two-way communication is vital to building influence because if no one is listening to you then you have absolutely no influence.

 

Influence is an exceptional asset in the workplace and in life. It is mandatory if you’re going to lead others. If your goal is to be an Authentic Leader then don’t seek a position of influence, try instead to be a person of influence. 

The Trouble with Managing People

I write about this topic from time-to-time but it never gets old. People still make this leadership mistake with great regularity.

 

The mistake they make is trying to use their leadership position to manage people. Let me say this yet again: managing people is impossible. People refuse to be managed, they want to be led. 

 

For those of you who refuse to acknowledge the difference between managing and leading I say this: you are doomed to a life of limited leadership. Worse, you have sentenced the people you are supposed to be leading to a life of limited potential.

 

It really is that big of a deal that you understand the very real difference between managing and leading.

 

You manage things. Things like a budget, a building, and a process. You manage things that don’t think, don’t have feelings, don’t have goals and objectives, and don’t care one iota what you think of them. 

 

But people do think, they do have feelings, they (hopefully) have goals and objectives. And they care what you as their leader think of them. That’s why they must be led, not managed.

 

People who feel managed are most always under-performers. Even if they are doing well they would do better if they were led instead of managed. People who feel managed are frequently said to be “problem people” in their workplace. The truth is that they are unlikely to be the actual problem. It’s far more likely that the problem is the person who is supposed to be leading them but is managing them instead. 

 

There are people who would tell you that the difference between managing and leading is pure semantics. But they would be mistaken. The differences are substantial and one of the biggest ones is mindset. Managers can afford to be dispassionate, in fact it’s a strength for managers. Leaders must be passionate. They have to truly care about the people they lead. They have to be as motivated to help their people succeed as they are to succeed themselves. 

 

A management mindset sees people as an asset or as capital to be used. Managers think in terms of “spending time on” their people when their people need help. A leadership mindset sees people as a human being to be nurtured and developed. Leaders think of “investing time with” their people when their people need help. 

 

The difference in outcomes produced by those two mindsets is like night and day. 

 

I know you’re not going to like this but if you have “problem people” in your organization then you need to make certain that you are not the root of the problem. If you’re trying to manage your people then the “problem” with your people is most likely you.


Leaders lead people and managers manage stuff. The best leaders know how…and when, to manage and the best managers know how…and when, to lead. There’s no crime in not being able to do both, you just have to acknowledge it and not try to manage people who need to be led.

 

 

The Art of Leadership

There is well documented science behind the management of things. You input a set of “ingredients,” follow a known and specific plan and presto, you almost always get the output you were looking for. 

 

It’s not that way with leadership. Managing is about things. Leadership is about people. When you manage a budget you input the numbers with a high degree of certainty that 2 plus 2 will equal 4. (Yes, I understand this may not be true if you work in government) When you lead people you can put 2 people in the same room, give them identical directions on preforming the identical task and get 2 drastically different results. 

 

A stoplight at an intersection demonstrates the difference between managing and leading. The red and green lights mean the same thing to everyone. You stop on red and go on green. 

 

The yellow lights however can mean very different, even opposite things. 

 

To some people yellow lights mean slow down. To other people the yellow light means go real fast. But that depends too. If you’re not in a hurry it may mean slow down but if you are in a hurry it might mean go real fast. 

 

The red and green lights are pretty straightforward, kind of like managing. The yellow lights have lots of variables and even those variables can change depending on the circumstances. That’s a lot like leading. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that while people can have similarities no two people are identical. They develop their people by using those diverse skills, varied knowledge and different experiences to mold a productive team. 

 

They rally those individuals to mutually agreed upon goals and objectives. Authentic Leaders encourage robust discussions to reach high-quality and correct decisions. While working as a team they establish both group and individual accountability. They learn from their successes and learn even more from their failures. Instead of assigning blame they look for solutions. 

 

Developing people is the true art in leadership. 

 

Authentic Leaders invest a significant part of each day practicing that art. They know that their success is completely dependent on the success of their people. They understand that while quarterly profits and short-term metrics are important the development of their people is the only way to truly sustainable success. 

 

They inspire their people to do great things, often things their people never thought possible. Authentic Leaders work tirelessly to help their people stay highly motivated. They motivate them with a combination of rewards and sincere recognition. 

 

People are the priority for Authentic Leaders. They understand that all the growth and success of any organization comes from the efforts of the people who make up the organization. Their words, actions, values, vision, and ethics all reflect that understanding. 


So….do you understand?


What Motivates Your People?

I will often ask that question of people in leadership positions. Authentic Leaders have an answer. Other leaders have a response. 

 

The main difference between an answer and a response is the answer is based on what someone knows and a response is based on what they think.

 

Authentic Leaders know what motivates their people because they have asked them. Other leaders assume they know or they figure what motivates them will also motivate everyone else. 

 

Assuming they know what motivates another person is an all too common mistake of ineffective leaders. Every person is unique. They have different life experiences that shape their beliefs, their likes, their dislikes and their motivations. To assume otherwise is a fool’s errand. 

 

Authentic Leaders invest the required time to understand the unique motivators for each of their people. Sometimes that means helping their people discover what motivates them because oftentimes people don’t stop to consider this important question on their own. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that everyone is naturally motivated. Some people lose their motivation along life’s way and need to be reminded and refreshed. Some people just need help maintaining their motivation. 

 

Whatever circumstances your people find themselves in, one of your key responsibilities as a leader is to help them maintain or restore their motivation. 

 

There are leadership development programs that discuss “clues” to finding what motivates your people. There are leadership developments programs that offer tools like the DISC Test to help determine a person’s motivations. 

 

I’m not a big fan of any of that. I’m a fan of a leader talking with their people on a regular basis to truly get to know them. I believe Authentic Leadership requires that level of personal leading take place…frequently. 

 

If you want to know what motivates your people and how you can help them stay motivated to reach their goals and excel in their job and in life then ASK. The question will surprise people who have never been led by an Authentic Leader. Ask anyway!

 

Ask and then demonstrate another leadership characteristic they may not be used to…LISTEN to their answer. 

 

Disengaged employees can suck the life out of any organization. Unmotivated employees quickly become disengaged. When you lead your people to what keeps them motivated you give them and your organization a chance at lasting success.


Do YOU know what motivates YOUR people?

Do You Have the Time to Lead?

I consistently hear leaders, or perhaps I should say people in leadership positions, say that they cannot afford the time required to mentor, coach and develop their people. They are too “busy” doing other things. 

 

These types of leaders frequently say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. Watch them for a week however and you would see almost no evidence to backup that statement.

 

Leaders who believe they cannot afford the time to develop their people miss the fact that the primary responsibility of leadership is building people. 

 

Leaders don’t lead companies, they lead the people who make up the company. Leaders don’t lead budgets, they lead the people who manage the budget. Leaders don’t lead plans, they lead the people who follow the plans. 

 

Everything in an organization or business is managed except for the people. The people within an organization or business are responsible for every bit of that organization’s success. Those people need leadership. 

 

Authentic leaders understand that they manage things and lead people. They know that the difference between leadership and management is far more than semantics. They realize that people who feel managed will be significantly less engaged. The morale of people who feel managed will be lower then the morale of people who are led. The growth of people who are led is much greater than that of people who feel managed. In fact, people who are managed have virtually no real growth opportunities. 

 

If you’re in a leadership position and you are not investing a significant portion of your time to coach, mentor and develop the people you lead then you are missing the boat on leadership. 

 

Developing your people is not a question of having the time. It is a question of priorities. If you’ve been telling yourself that you don’t have the time to lead then perhaps your priorities are a bit off. 

 

Make developing your people the priority it needs to be and your leadership will have no end. Fail to develop your people and your leadership will have no beginning. 


The choice is yours to make. Will you choose to Lead Today?