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. http://twitter.com/leadtoday 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.

Are You a Leadership Fool?

Some people like being fooled so much that when they can’t find somebody to fool them they will fool themselves. One group that fits into that category is people who somehow find themselves in leadership positions but are most definitely NOT leaders. 

They have no aptitude for leading. They have no leadership training. They have no interest in helping the people they are supposed to be leading. Their only interest is in claiming whatever title and perks come with the leadership position. 

They fool themselves into thinking they are actually leading when in fact they don’t even know what Authentic Leadership is. The worst part of fooling themselves is that it prevents them from growing into an actual leader.

If they were interested in actually leading they would learn the difference between managing and leading. They would learn that “things” can be managed but people cannot. They would discover that people need leadership. 

That would hopefully cause them to learn the characteristics of Authentic Leadership. They may even attempt to internalize those characteristics. Those characteristics include, in no particular order…

Self-awareness. Authentic Leaders reflect on their decisions and corresponding actions. They consider their own strengths and weaknesses with the goal of continuously improving their leadership skills. They accept responsibility for their decisions. While they frequently pass on compliments to their team you will never see them pass the buck.

Empathy. Authentic Leaders know that leadership comes from the heart. The relationships they develop with their teams can go very deep. They develop those relationships using empathy, listening skills and courage. 

Integrity. Strength of character is vital for an Authentic Leader. They say what they mean. People trust them because they honor their commitments. They work daily to earn the respect of their people. They understand that if their people can’t trust them then their people can’t follow them. 

Judgment. Authentic Leaders have great judgment. That doesn’t mean they are correct 100% of the time but they get the big decisions right. While making judgments about people they refrain from being judgmental. Authentic Leaders know the difference between the two. 

Listening Skills. Authentic Leaders know that can’t learn anything when they are talking. So they frequently listen more than they talk. They listen not only with open ears but with an open mind and an open heart. They are willing to consider ideas different from their own. They are willing to change their mind and their course when it makes sense. 

Consistency. Authentic Leaders are not fickle. They make principled decisions based on their Core Values. Their people know what to expect. They know that while they may not agree with every decision the decisions are made for the benefit of the team and organization, not only the leader. 

Vision. People want to know where they are being led. Authentic Leaders lead with purpose, vision and passion. They add value to the lives of the people they lead. Not only in their professional lives, but personal lives as well. They set high standards for themselves and the people they lead. They bring their vision to life in such a way that their people can see themselves in it. And they like what they see!

The greatest leadership “myth” of all is that a position or title makes someone a leader. Never never ever fool yourself into believing that myth. Leadership is serious stuff. It takes dedicated effort to develop yourself into an Authentic Leader. 

The rewards for helping people reach their full potential makes that effort very worthwhile. In fact, I’d challenge you to find one Authentic Leader who would say otherwise. And if they do they might just be fooling with ya. 

YES, There is a Difference Between Managing and Leading

I haven’t written about this topic for a while. Lately I’ve been frustrated by the number of people I’ve come into contact with who think they are the same. So here I go again!

Managing is about stuff, like budgets, buildings, inventories and spreadsheets. We manage stuff. Leading is about people and only people. No one leads a business, they manage the business. They lead the people who work at the business. 

And NO, I’m not playing games with words. There is a huge difference in the mindset of people who foolishly think they can manage another human being and a person who knows they can’t. Most people know that they personally resist being managed. They want to be led. Many of those same people however, don’t realize that the people they are trying to manage feel just like them. 

If you’re in a leadership position you need to understand that most of the issues you would describe as personnel issues, especially attitude issues, stem from YOU trying to manage people rather than lead them. It will be that way until you actually begin to lead. 

A substantial majority of people holding leadership positions in the United States have never had a minute of formal leadership training. If you’re wondering how that can be here are a couple of statistics for you from research conducted earlier this year. It is consistent with other research done in previous years. 

77% of businesses in the US say that leadership is lacking in their organizations. 83% say that leadership development at all levels within their organization is a priority. Yet only 5% of them have implemented formal leadership development at any level. 

That’s why so many people who hold leadership positions think they are leading when they actually are not. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. 

Managing people may seem easier then leading them. When you manage people you most likely tell them what to do. You tell them if, in your opinion, they did what they were told. If they did what they were told that’s pretty much the end of it. If they didn’t do what they were told there will be hell to pay. Sound familiar?

While managing people may seem easier then leading it is actually creating problems at the same time it is damaging culture. Sometimes severely damaging culture. 

Leading people is complicated. It is challenging. There is no end to it. But…it is 1000 times more rewarding than trying to manage them. You may not always succeed in leading people. You will never, never, never succeed at managing people. 

Leading people is complicated because, well because they are people. They are emotional beings. If you’re going to lead people you must be willing, and prepared, to deal with their emotions. The moment I hear someone in a leadership position say “I refuse to deal with the drama” people try to bring to me, I know I’m talking to a manager rather than a leader. 

Leadership at it’s core is helping people deal with what’s happening in their lives. It is about helping ordinary, often “messy” people achieve extraordinary results. In spite of whatever messes and limitations they may have in their lives. You cannot, you absolutely cannot, lead another human being without caring for them. If you don’t care about what’s happening in their lives you won’t be able to care for them in their careers.

Telling people to keep their “home life” separate from their work like is another sign you’re trying to manage rather than lead. As an emotional human being YOU have never once been able to completely separate your home life from your work life. Yet you expect the people you’re supposed to be leading to do it every day. And then you wonder why your people have an attitude issue. 

I once worked for a guy, thankfully I didn’t report directly to him, who said it was his job to keep people guessing. If they knew what he expected of them then they wouldn’t be “on their toes.” He was kinda right about that because it’s tough to be on your toes when you’re always looking over your shoulder. 

If your people do not know exactly what you expect from them that’s a sure sign you’re not leading. Authentic Leaders communicate with the people they lead. Very very frequently. If you haven’t talked to each one of your direct reports this week then you’re trying to manage them, you’re not leading them.

Please do not even attempt to tell me you don’t have time to even have a five minute conversation each week with every person you’re supposed to be leading. If that’s the case you either have way too many direct reports or you do not understand the difference between trying to manage people and the privilege of leading them. 

Manage things, lead people. When you do that, you, your people, and your business will truly have the opportunity to experience explosive growth.

On a another subject…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 perhaps 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. http://twitter.com/leadtoday 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.

Cascading Leadership

I have written many times about the importance of a leadership “down line.” What that means is, as important as leadership is at the top of the organization it is every bit as important at other levels of an organization. 

The leader at the top of an organization can be a very Authentic Servant Leader but in many organizations, especially large organizations, their leadership must be carried to other levels of the organization by their leadership team. If the team is not made up of effective leaders then the message, and likely the culture, of the organization does not reach very far.

That’s what it’s so important to have effective leadership spread out at every level. The vast majority of leadership comes from the middle of the organization, not the top. The top leadership may set the tone but if mid level leaders can’t carry the tune the broader workforce never hears it. 

Leadership cascades down through the organization. Poor mid level leaders act as a dam that stops the flow of Authentic Leadership. It has been said many times by many people that employees quit their managers, not their companies. That is absolutely true. That’s why even organizations with solid leadership at the top continue to lose key employees.  Employees who could be the future of their organizations. 

It has perhaps never been more important that organizations identify their key employees. They must make certain that they are being led by an Authentic Leader and not being managed by someone who merely holds a leadership position. 

Quality employees will no longer settle for being managed. They insist on being led, as well they should. 

If you’re a leader at the top of your organization then you need to ensure that your future “stars” are working under someone who understands the difference between trying to manage someone and actually leading them. 

Your “stars” need to be nurtured, challenged and informed. They need a leader who can mentor them, help them grow and set forth for them, a clear and obtainable career path. 

As a leader, you can stop the Great Resignation or whatever the heck you want to call it in it’s tracks. But to do so you must make certain that you have authentic leadership throughout your organization. You must especially be certain that your stars, who are the future leaders of your organization are being led and not managed. 

The next time you’re considering the effectiveness of your leadership be sure to consider whether you have “dams” that are blocking your leadership from reaching everyone in your organization. 

That’s important because if everyone can’t feel your leadership then your leadership may be more limited than you think. 

Your Ticket In

In all likelihood you were promoted to your first leadership position because you were good at your job. That job most likely didn’t involve leadership responsibilities. 

The challenge for most new leaders is that what earned them a leadership position will almost certainly not help them lead. They may have managed their job exceptionally well. They may understand how the business works, they may even know how to generate revenue for their organization. 

But none of that has anything to do with leading. That’s managing. We manage stuff, we manage things, we may even attempt to manage time but we do not, we cannot, manage people. 

Every business or organization needs excellent management to survive. They need superior leadership to thrive. 

The first step to becoming a superior leader is to understand that the skill sets that make you a good manager will not make you a good leader. While a high IQ can make you an effective manager it requires a decent EQ to help you develop as a leader.

Leadership is about people and only people. If you don’t “get” people you won’t get leadership either. If you can’t demonstrate that you care for people then people won’t care to follow you. 

People cannot follow someone they do not trust. Authentic leaders work to earn the trust of the people they lead on a continuous basis. They know that to be trusted their words must match their actions. Authentic Leaders lead will truth and honesty even when it’s a little painful. 

New leaders who want to become experienced Authentic Leaders understand that they are responsible for their own development. They willingly accept whatever development opportunities come from their organizations but they don’t stop there. 

They invest their own time and often their own money to further develop themselves. They will attend classes, listen to podcasts and seek out coaches who can help them develop their leadership skills.

If you’re in a leadership position, particularly if you’re new to a leadership position, you should know that your management skills are merely your ticket into the leadership world. Being promoted into a leadership position does not make you a leader, it merely provides you with an opportunity to earn the right to lead. 

By the way, while holding a leadership position may make it a bit quicker to earn that right, you do not need a leadership position to lead. You just need to care for people and want to make a difference in their lives.

Authentic Leaders will tell you that leadership development never stops. The most effective leaders continue to learn and develop their own leadership skills. They know that “good enough” never is. 

If you’re new to leadership, or struggling in your current leadership role then the good news is that there is lots of help available to you. You only need to make the decision to develop yourself into the most effective leader possible. 

That’s part of leading yourself, which always comes before attempting to lead someone else. 

Engaged Leadership

I’ve never been a huge fan of companies doing culture surveys. Most companies that use them do the surveys every couple of years to take the “pulse” of the company and determine what the employees are thinking. 

The survey questions typically ask about how the company is treating them. How the leadership of the company is doing. If they “like” working there and on it goes. 

I suppose asking once every couple of years is better than not asking at all but not by much. What I really hope is that no company that conducts a culture survey is surprised by the responses. 

If a company’s leadership team is surprised by the results of a company survey then that company’s leadership team is not engaged with it’s employees. If the survey was about the culture of the company and the leadership team is surprised by the results then it’s very likely the culture is not very good.

I’d much prefer to see an organization’s leadership team doing mini culture surveys on a daily basis. An EVERY SINGLE DAY basis. The easiest way to do that is to have members of a company’s leadership team do five minute “innerviews” with at least one team member a day. Note I did not say “interviews,” I said “innerviews.” An interview is what you do when you hire someone. An “innerview” is what you do when you want to know how they, are the company are doing. 

For an Authentic Leader those five minutes are frequently their most important minutes of the day. First, they discover how they and the people they lead are doing. Are their people engaged and prospering? Do their people have ideas that could help the organization be better? Do that have family and friends who would be a good addition to the organization? What changes would they make if they were in charge? 

The second thing an “innerview” accomplishes is showing that the leadership team is listening. It shows that the leadership team is engaged. It demonstrates that the leadership team cares.

Conducting daily “innerviews” requires the leadership team to be “out there” interacting with every level of their organization. It gives them visibility within the organization and breaks down barriers that are common in companies with poor culture. 

If you hold a leadership position in your organization then you must understand that you need to be seen to be relevant. You need to be IN the organization not merely at the top of it. 

So ask yourself these questions: How many different people in your organization did you talk with last week? We’re they the same ones you talked to the week before? And the week before that? Were they all near the top level of leadership in the company?

If you’re only interacting with other senior leaders in your organization then the information you’re receiving is heavily filtered. It is filtered by the experiences and biases of the other senior leaders providing the information. If they got the information second hand or third hand then by the time you hear it you might as well not have heard it at all. 

The culture of an organization is incredibly important. Many would say it’s more important than all the strategies and tactics you’ll ever have. As a leader you don’t evaluate your strategies every couple of years. You should not evaluate the culture in your organization every couple of years either. 

Take the pulse of your organization every single day. Be an engaged leader. Lead by walking around and while you’re walking, stop frequently to talk with people to see how you, and the organization you lead, are doing. 

If you occupy a leadership position and you’re not regularly engaging with people at all levels of your organization then you may be managing the business but you’re not leading it’s people.

Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Not a single person reading this has ever successfully managed people. That’s because it can’t be done. Human beings resist being managed to the point of being impossible to manage. 

People insist on being led. If you think managing and leading are one and the same then you may be a manager but you’re most certainly not a leader. 

I’ve written about this before but since it’s been awhile here’s a refresher. 

Managing and leading are two different things. You manage things. Things like a budget, buildings, inventory, property and the like. If it’s an “it” you can manage it. If “it” is not capable of expressing emotion go ahead and manage away. 

But if you’re dealing with a flesh and blood person then attempting to manage them creates nearly every problem the typical manager complains about. 

Leadership is about people and only people. When you attempt to manage people you risk treating them like things…at least they feel that way. That highlights one critical difference between managing and leading. Things don’t “feel” but people always do. 

That makes leading far more challenging than managing. Dealing with our own emotions is tough enough, trying to make sense of other people’s emotions can be more than a little daunting. That’s likely why so many people in leadership positions don’t try. They try to manage their people instead.

Another reason that happens is that over 70% of the people in leadership positions have no formal leadership training. None. Zippo. Zero. They also have had no mentoring from a successful leader. They are put into a leadership position and then expected to fend for themselves. It’s almost as if people think leadership just happens.

Make no mistake about this absolute fact…leaders are not born, they are trained. The training can take on different forms but absent some type of training it is exceptionally rare for Authentic Leadership to emerge. 

That makes for a difficult leadership experience, for both the leader and those they try to lead. 

I wish I could tell you that every company that promotes someone to a leadership position also provides them with the training to succeed as a leader. Unfortunately very few actually do. So be aware that just as it is in much of life, if success as a leader is meant to be then it’s likely up to you to make it happen.

So find yourself a leadership development program to enroll in. Maybe even more important, find yourself a leadership mentor. Someone you trust and admire as a leader and ask them to show you how they do it. 

If you’ve chosen the right person will be thrilled to invest their time to share their insights with you. 

One last point. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m diminishing the importance of solid management within every organization. Poor management is in fact the cause of many business failures. If you’re a great manager then your impact on an organization can be substantial. You are vital to the success of any organization. 

It’s important to understand however that being a great manager does not make you a great leader anymore than being a great leader makes you a great manager. Some people are blessed with both skillsets. Many are not and it’s incumbent upon you to know the difference.