The Leadership Difference

I’ve met a lot of “leaders” in my lifetime and a few of them actually led. 

If you’re confused by that sentence let me explain. Lots and lots of people hold positions in their organizations that would indicate they are leaders. Many of them have some fancy title that would seem to confirm it. 

Too bad for them that neither a position or title can make them a leader. Even having followers doesn’t actually make someone a leader, at least not an Authentic Leader. People can be coerced into “pretending” to follow. The truth is they are merely complying with orders and directives so they can keep their paychecks coming. 

Authentic Leaders don’t need compliance and they rarely give “orders.” They work to earn the commitment of their people so their people willingly follow them. Enthusiastically follow them. 

The followers of an Authentic Leader follow them because of what the leader has done for them. They follow because the leader makes a positive difference in the lives of the people they lead. 

I’d go so far as to say if you haven’t made a positive difference in the lives of people you think you are leading then you may be their boss but you are not their leader. If you’re not consistently showing the people you lead that you care about them as human beings then you may be their manager but you are not their leader.

If your words do not match your actions then they cannot trust you. If they cannot trust you then they may comply with your demands but they will never be committed to following you. 

If your people believe that you’re using them to advance your own career then you’ll be unable to earn that commitment no matter how high your position or fancy your title. 

So let me ask you this. Can you specifically say how you’ve made a positive difference in the life of someone you’ve led? Can you say how you demonstrate, on a regular basis that your people matter to you and your organization? Can you say when, exactly, was the last time you told them that they matter as an individual? 

If you can’t answer those questions and do so relatively quickly then you have some work to do. You’ll need to invest some time to improve your leadership skills. You likely have to change your thinking as well. Some of all you may even have to develop a heart for leadership. 

The great news is that all that’s possible. To begin all you need to do is make a decision that you will LeadToday!

Characteristics of Great Followers – Part Two of Two

Most Great Leaders I’ve known were once great followers. Many still are from time to time. The skills and characteristics of great followers are in many respects similar to the characteristics you’ll see in Authentic Leaders. 

In our last post we discussed characteristics possessed by great followers. This post will address 4 additional characteristics vital for genuine Followership. 

Great followers are prepared when they request the time of their leader. They know the information they need and they know the questions they need to ask to discover that information. They anticipate the questions their leader may ask of them and they are prepared to answer them. They don’t merely bring problems to their leader, they also bring possible solutions…if they haven’t already taken the initiative to handle the problems themselves. 

People who follow well don’t say yes when the answer needs to be no. They know when to push back on the leader and when to back off. They share the unvarnished truth with their leader at all times. They aren’t afraid to point out the flaws in a leader’s thinking but they do it in a thoughtful and compassionate way. They will hold their leader accountable for the things they say and do. If that surprises you then you need to know that in the strongest organizations accountability is a two-way street. 

Great followers will be better tomorrow than they are today. They seize every opportunity to learn and train themselves for success. They don’t wait to be “forced” into training. They try new things and you’ll never hear “because we’ve always done it that way” from them. They know what works and why. They know what doesn’t work and why. Great followers know that the minute they stop learning they stop growing. Great followers are always open to trying something new.

You’ll know you’re dealing with a great follower when you see someone who is willing to invest in relationships with almost anyone. They realize the value in different viewpoints and are willing to work with the best idea even if it isn’t theirs. Similar to Authentic Leaders, great followers come from great people. 

Whether you choose to be a leader or a follower you still need to make a commitment to be the best leader or follower you can be. Whether you decide to lead or follow you still have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. 

We know leaders can make a difference but you need to know YOU can too, even as a follower. The only question is…will you?

Well?

Weak Leaders – Part Five

Strong Authentic Leaders were at one time committed followers. Many of them still are, at least sometimes. 

If you have always struggled to follow someone else then you will most likely always struggle to earn the right to have someone else follow you. Leading someone requires their commitment. Weak leaders have no idea what is required to earn that commitment. Thus the best they can do is create more weak leaders. It is very uncommon for a weak leader to develop someone into a strong leader. 

I could write for days on what causes a lack of commitment but I can sum up it’s result in one word…insubordination. The act of insubordination can take many forms. It could be completely ignoring the requests of the leader. It might be doing the opposite or nearly the opposite, of what is needed for the organization to succeed. Often it is simply talking poorly about the leader behind their back.  

Talking behind a leaders back results in one of the most productivity killing activities an insubordinate follower can undertake. That activity is known as circular communication. Let’s say the leader directs follower number one to perform a particular task. Follower number one thinks it’s a ridiculous request. So follower number one needs to find someone to complain to, we’ll call that person follower number two. 

Follower number two is never chosen at random. They are carefully selected because they must possess one singular quality above all others. They must agree with follower number one that the leader is making a ridiculous request.

It’s also likely that follower number one finds a follower 3, 4, and 5 to complain to as well. Followers 2, 3, 4, and 5 may also tell several other people until finally word gets back to the leader that follower number one thinks the leader is making ridiculous requests. Then the messy circle is complete. 

So now there are multiple people involved, discussing an issue that only two people have the ability to solve. Only the leader and follower number one. By not going directly to the leader follower number one has impacted the productivity, and likely the morale, of many people in the organization. That’s circular communication.

Follower number one may find themselves in a leadership position one day but they will almost certainly be a weak leader.

If you’re in a middle leadership position today and you’re participating in circular communication then you will be seen as a weak leader. Because you probably are. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do not try to communicate to someone through others. They communicate directly with the person who they need to speak with. Indirect, circular communication is a trust killer. When you lose the trust of the people around you then you’ve lost the ability to earn the level of commitment required to lead. 

The five characteristics of weak leaders I have written about in this series are fairly common. The good news is that each of them can be overcome. It requires a weak leader to make a commitment to improve their leadership skills. 

People who convert themselves from weak leaders to strong leaders often do so with the help of a coach or a mentor. It’s tough to do on your because one of the things that make people a weak leader is their inability to see themselves as they really are. 

The eyes and the objectivity of a mentor can make a big difference…if you’re willing to listen to them and act on their recommendations. 

Most weak leaders are satisfied with holding a leadership position. Strong Authentic Leaders made the choice to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Your position of leadership can make a difference for you or you can make a difference with your leadership position. That choice is completely up to you! 

The Benefits of a Generous Spirit

Sir Winston Churchill said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

No matter how much or how little you have, you have something that you can share with others. That something has the potential to change someone’s life for the better. IF you’re willing to share.

There are many logical reasons to give. It has been proven that giving can lower your blood pressure. It reduces the stress in your life. You will experience less anxiety and giving helps keep depression at bay. It also increases self-esteem.

But here is the best reason to make a difference in the life of someone else…because you can.

Some of you reading this are saying to yourself I’d give if only I had something to give. But as I said before, you absolutely have something to give. You only need to broaden your perspective about what you have that is valuable.

During this particular time in history there are many people experiencing profound loneliness. They would love for someone to talk with. If you have a willing ear and a mouth that works then that someone could be you.

I’ll bet there is an organization in your community that is matching up willing “givers” with people who could use a bit of conversation to brighten their day. If you Google it you can find that organization. 5 or 10 minutes a day to do a little good, maybe a lot of good, maybe even save a life.

That’s just one of a million ways you can give back this very day!

Still some of you are saying I’d do that if only I had the time. As anyone who has ever heard me do a Webinar on “Using Your Time Effectively” time is just an excuse for people too busy…or lazy, to make a real excuse.

You have plenty of time to do everything that is a priority in your life. And this is a bit off topic but if you have more than a small handful of priorities in your life then you probably don’t have any real priorities.

You might be thinking I can’t “spend” time giving back because I have kids, work, homeschooling, plus tons of stuff. So DON’T SPEND time on anyone, instead “INVEST TIME” with everyone in your life.

That change of mindset will improve every relationship in your life.

The benefits of giving far outweigh whatever perceived “costs” there may be. You don’t need money to give, you don’t need some special gift or skill to give. You don’t need more time in the day to give.

You just need a willing heart and a desire to help.

Giving to others is one of the nicest things you can do….for yourself. I think you deserve it, don’t you agree?

The One Absolute of Authentic Leadership

I am frequently asked how to define the difference between Leadership and Authentic Leadership.

A leader is anyone who has influence over other people. That’s a very broad definition and points to the reality that almost anyone can lead. Your level of influence will determine your ability to lead. The greater your level of influence the greater your leadership potential.

But Authentic Leadership is something different. Being an Authentic Leader requires more than mere influence. It requires that you use that influence in a way that positively impacts the lives of the people you lead.

Authentic Leadership begins when you care for the people you lead. That’s because Authentic Leadership requires that the leader put their people first. If you don’t care for the people you lead it’s nearly impossible to put them first.

When you care for your people and you put them first it leads to enthusiastically helping your people succeed. It leads to making a positive difference in their lives.

That’s why the one absolute measure of whether a person is an Authentic Leader is whether or not they have helped make the people they lead better. Better at what they do, better at how they do it and better at why they do it.

Authentic Leaders make a difference in their people’s lives. They do it with no expectation of receiving anything in return for themselves. It may indeed help their organization but that’s not their primary motive for helping their people. They help their people in almost anyway they can because it’s the right thing to do.

A leader can have a large dose of success in many areas but if they haven’t helped another person reach their potential and achieve more than that person thought possible then they may be a Leader but I would not define them as an Authentic Leader.

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re an Authentic Leader you don’t need to wonder anymore. Look around at the people you’ve been leading. Are they better off because of the positive impact you have had on their life? Would they agree that you’ve had that positive impact if they were asked.

If the answer to both those questions is not a solid yes then you have some growing to do as a leader. That growth begins with a decision that says “I will LeadToday.” When you make that decision to authentically lead you won’t only change the lives of the people you lead, you’ll likely change your life as well.

Should You Quit Your Job?

I’m tempted to make this post very short and say to quit your job the moment it begins to feel like work….but I know that not everyone is blessed with a job that they love.

When to quit your job is a big, difficult decision for many people. It should be, it’s a life altering decision. Younger people tend to quit their job too soon, they jump ship before they realize that what they don’t like about their job may be themselves. They get to their new place of employment and there they are; and many of their problems came with them. Older people sometimes stay too long, they “hang on” and overstay their usefulness instead of moving on to somewhere else where they might make a real difference.

Of course one of the biggest differences between younger and older employees is this: for younger people work is something they do; for older people work is some place they go. Younger employees work is “portable” but older employees work is located at a place filled with familiarity and that can be tough to leave.

So, when should you quit your job? My recommendation is to leave your job when it stops providing you the opportunity and environment where you can be happy. Now I want you to read that last sentence very carefully. It says stops providing you “the opportunity and environment”  to be happy. 

Do not expect your job or company to make you happy. It is not a requirement for your employer to make you happy. Companies that want to retain employees will however provide an environment where happiness and fulfillment are possible.

But your happiness is your responsibility. It is also your choice. When you allow others, your boss, your company or whatever, to determine your level of happiness then you give up a pretty important choice.

Successful people accept responsibility for all aspects of their life, including their happiness. 

Companies that provide that opportunity and environment have several things in common, here are a few of them:

They have trusted leadership. It’s tough to be happy when you’re looking over your shoulder.

They provide opportunities for advancement. Now once again let me point out that word “opportunity.” Opportunity does not mean a constant string of raises and promotions, it merely means the possibility for both exist when you EARN them.

They provide the opportunity for self-development. Companies are either developing their employees or they are using them. If you’re feeling used it will be nearly impossible to be truly happy. However, if your company offers you educational opportunities and you decline to accept them then you’re not being used. You’re just cheating yourself out of self-development that could lead to greater success.

Success to me is about much more than making a living, it’s about making a life. To make a life I believe that you must make a difference. 

If the place that you work does not allow you to make a difference then find some place that does. You of course do not have to make a life at the same place that you make a living. I might even encourage you to have more than one “place” in your life.

One more thing… if you do choose to stay at your job then you MUST do the job to the absolute best of your ability whether you like it or not. Failing to do so isn’t a whole lot different than stealing. If you accept the compensation then accept the work as well.