Leaders and leadership
I believe we all evolve as leaders. Wait, that is not completely true. There are some truly bad leaders out there that remain bad and only get worse. But that is still evolution just not the way I think it should go. Yuppers, lots of Anissa opinion going to be infused in this post so be ready. I have been watching idly by lately and have had enough. Between government, big business (I really wish BP would read the below), and even locally within the state, I am tired of ineffective leaders.
First, I don’t believe leadership is a title. Just because you have one doesn’t mean anything to me unless you believe your title has magic and you use that power to threaten, rule by fear, coerce, or otherwise, put down the rest of us little people you believe us to be. Your leading by your title does not create respect or trust. For those of you who do this, think about that for a second. Does your team respect you? Trust you? Want to make you look good? If you don’t outright say yes immediately and know it to be true, you aren’t a leader in my eyes.
Second, I think we are all leaders. This may be in government, school, work, church, your neighborhood, your high school, your professional organization, etc. At any time, we are all leaders and we are all followers. If you remember this, a leader can be more compassionate instead of power hungry. A leader understands that they do not exist without followers. That a true leader is a servant to others (hence servant leadership). Do those in your department, group or team believe in your vision (if you have one & you have shared it – big assumption on my part) and help you achieve it? If you are leading the charge and there is no one, or few, behind you, you aren’t a leader in my eyes.
Third, leaders know their team. They know each person, what they do, their strengths, their motivations, and where they want to go. As a leader, can you say this? If you can’t, then you better sit down and take the time. And this does not mean once a year during the performance review (which I find ridiculous – these conversations should be ongoing and regularly occurring throughout the year). Leading is about people not tasks, not sitting in committee meetings, not sitting in your own office all day long. As an extension, does your team actively stop by your office/desk to talk to you, not just about work but about random things? If no one, or few, do this, you aren’t a leader in my eyes.
Fourth, leaders don’t play favorites. If you make the effort to only get to know a few really well, only give these people the extra opportunities, only take them to lunch, only take the time to laugh with them and show your human side, you are especially not a leader in my eyes. We might as well be back in high school.
Fifth, leaders talk. I don’t mean communicate, I mean talk. What are your plans for the department, group or team? What are you trying to accomplish now? What is happening in the organization? This should be regularly and consistently shared. We should hear more from you, all the time. Believe me, a chief complaint is that communication sucks in any organization – so what are you waiting for? And if you complain that there is too much water cooler talk, this is YOUR fault. In the face of ambiguity or lack of communication from YOU, there is no information being shared. People will band together, support each other and share the small tidbits they pick up and try to cobble together what is happening. You aren’t a leader in my eyes if you believe that it is your team’s fault for the acting this way. You need to look within.
Sixth, leaders create the climate. If you think the climate in your department, group or team isn’t supportive, is negative, tense, and people are constantly calling sick because of stress, YOU created this and YOU must fix it. A leader knows and if you don’t, you aren’t a leader in my eyes.
Seventh, leaders are reflective learners. Do you take the time to think about who you are as a leader? Where you have been and where you want to go? I am not talking about titles or roles. I am talking about your style. Do you know what it is? Do you know its impact on others? Do you readily know areas you need to enhance or are your blind spots? Do you know the behaviors that grate on others (the do as I say, not as I do variety). Do you take the time to read about other leaders and think about those aspects relative to yourself? Or, do you think yourself impervious, superior, perfect, and in need of no leadership style change in any way? The chief leadership trait that is more important than any other is vulnerability, in my opinion. I look for this in leaders and believe this is THE trait that epitomizes leaders. If you can be vulnerable, admit your mistakes, show that you need the expertise of others, that you don’t know everything, then your courage, your integrity, and your humanity shine through. Are you vulnerable in any way? If you aren’t, then you aren’t a leader in my eyes.
Eight, leaders aren’t paranoid. If you are, then you need to look inside and figure out why. Hire a coach, go to a therapist, seek out a mentor. But the problem is yours, not your department, group or team. And if you believe it is, then you need to get everyone together and LISTEN. Ask the question about how they feel things are going and how you are doing as a leader, and then sit back and listen. The only thing you do is take notes and if you must talk, say thank you for the feedback. Then follow back with everyone on the areas you are going to work on and ask them to be your monitor so they can congratulate you when you make strides (no matter how small). All of this takes vulnerability. Do you have it? If you aren’t willing to do something about your paranoia, then you aren’t a leader in my eyes.
Ninth, leaders know how to have healthy conflict. If you have surrounded yourself by people who kiss your ass & do whatever you want, and are basically mini versions of you, then you aren’t a leader in my eyes. Leaders know that this isn’t leadership at all. This is just hero-worship and those persons kissing your ass hope you will help them with their own careers, giving them extra perks along the way. Bobble-heads do you no good. If everyone has given up and stopped sparring about issues, just letting you make decisions unilaterally, you aren’t a leader, you are a dictator. Healthy conflict is a good thing. You, the team and the organization gain so much more from this. But if you fear conflict, again, you need to look at some of the advice in Eight above.
Tenth, if you have felt that any of this has been written about you dear reader, then you need to look within now at those areas above that pissed you off.. Those are the areas that you know, deep down under all those protective layers, are the real leadership issues that you need to tackle. So go tackle them. And don’t think about this once, today. Think about this often and regularly and start DOING something to change. It is the only true way you can be a leader now and forever.