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?


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 productive.

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!


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.