There are thousands of books on leadership, thousands of opinions, and thousands of theories. Some are complicated, others simple. The thing about leadership is that ideas and opinions are great, but knowing about leadership and being a leader are not even close to the same thing. The real game is in the execution. If you are not “doing,” “executing,” or “taking action,” then you are not leading. But this article is about how to lead, not what leadership is. So, the below should serve you well whether you are new to the game or a longtime veteran.
Your People Come First. And yes, I mean they even come before customers and clients. I’ve watched many people in the service community being treated poorly only to have a manager apologize to the customer! You should be willing to lose some clients to show your people you are there for them. We often hear the question about how to get loyal employees, but the only way to do that is to have managers who are loyal to the employees. Your organization will function many times better if your people know you have their back. Overstating this point is impossible!
Be Deliberate. As a leader, you must focus and have a purpose such as knowing what you are doing each day to move closer to your goal. Many people take this point to mean you only need to have goals. But even individuals who have goals are not necessarily deliberate. Once you have established goals, you can get to work setting milestones and figuring out what actions to take to achieve them. Now you know what to do, then all you have to do is have enough discipline to do it.
Become a Change Expert. This seems like an obvious one, but the vast majority of leaders and manager I know have no clue about change management methodologies and techniques. Most subscribe to the thought process that if I have the authority, then people will change because I said so. Then, these “leaders” are confused when even good changes that make sense are being fought against. Take time to learn about change and good ways to break through the adversity of change. Kotter’s 8-step change model is a great start and Lewin’s basic model or Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze.
Leading Teams. If you are a manager, then you are already in charge of a team or several teams. The most popular methodology to understanding teams and their stages is from Bruce Tuckman. He identified the Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and most recently the Adjourning stages or team performance. As a leader, you must be able to understand how your team is interacting with each other and how you can lead them through the different stages. Also, know how new members or departing members will affect team dynamics.
High Standards. The last on the list, but far from least important is having high standards. High standards mean having standards that are higher than where your current operations or performance currently reside. You have to inspire the organization to achieve more, and you can only do this if you have high standards.
Clearly, there are many values that we expect a leader to have, but it is unrealistic to expect a leader to have all the values and characteristics we envision. If you start with the above five focus areas, you will be well on your way to becoming an exceptional leader!