Some folks are natural born leaders. They just know when to jump into the fire and lead. When to say what needs to be said. When to leave well enough alone. And, when to break free.
That doesn't mean that you cannot learn to lead. You can become that success you always dreamed about. But with that desire, realize that you will also need to work on your leadership skills to make things happen.
Leadership skills are what allows you to form partnerships. To guide those who you need to rely on. To attain those mutually respectful relationships that are at the heart of any successful enterprise.
Recently, I was coaching gentleman who felt like a fish out of water when it came to technology. He was very skilled at his profession but felt insecure when it came to many things online. Yes, he was the "boss" but he inferred that he was actually intimated by some on his team. This caused him to question if he was capable of creating an effective strategy.
One of his employees, who is much younger than him, had a "differing opinion" that inferred he didn't know what he was doing. I asked if the comments were made in frustration or to help him understand what needed to be done. He stated he felt this person was grandstanding in front of the rest of the team.
Constructive Input or Grandstanding
I run into folks like that on a regular basis. They do know more than most of the people around them and therefore are overly confident in their knowledge base. Some arrogantly so. Professionals don't grandstand.
Being arrogant does not mean that this person's opinion is necessarily valid. In a team environment input should be welcomed. As long as it is provided with the proper intent and tone.
Sometimes the hard truth is what points us back in the right direction. Here is where leadership comes into play. Knowing when to make strategic changes.
Yes, you should be interested in your staff's opinions. But you are the boss. It is your responsibility to understand all the variables and make the decision to set course in the direction you think is best for your business. You do not abdicate that due to lack of knowledge or someone not showing respect by grandstanding.
Each of us has the potential to be a leader. To lead, confidence is crucial. But not blind confidence. Leaders know they need to up their game and learn what they need in order to have that confidence. The qualities of a leader are:
- Honesty and Integrity: Honesty is crucial. Integrity is required. Without these two you cannot build a team that you can trust and that will trust you.
- Strong Communication: You must be willing to be upfront and clear. No wishy-washy-ness. Clarity in your communication style is imperative.
- Confidence: Leaders act confident at all times. (Don't confuse arrogance with confidence.)
- Ability to Inspire Others: Leaders have followers. Followers follow those who inspire them to be better than they thought they could be.
- Passion & Commitment: It is contagious.
- Decision Making Capabilities: Not all decisions are easy to make. That's where leaders come in. They make the tough decisions and own them.
- Positivity: Negativity never accomplishes anything.
- Innovation: Exploring new ideas, methodologies and processes when needed (or before they are needed).
- Collaboration: My way or the highway won't cut it.
- Delegation and Empowerment: Encourage those with potential and trust them with responsibility.
How do you lead if you don't know where you are going?
The next comment hit the bullseye in describing why I see otherwise confident business owners, choke when it comes to technology.
...I don't want to discourage anyone from offering their input. Teamwork is important to everyone invested in growing my company. I know what I want to accomplish but I'm not totally confident in what is the best approach. Or who to believe. Everyone seems to have a different experience-based opinion.
There you have it! Not sure what to do or who to trust. Have you had that thought?
I then let him know that it's time to stop trying to cater to all points of view and be a leader. You lead by learning, by following your gut, by blazing new trails within those established pathways. I really didn't have to tell him that. He is already a leader -- it's just that technology is his weak point.
Being a leader doesn't mean you run a Fortune 500 company. Leadership is just as important in small businesses and even sole proprietor operations. Maybe you need a techie on staff or a partner that you know you can rely on to bounce things off of. Then that's what you do.
Those you work with need to know your goals and how you expect to accomplish them. And what is expected of all involved. They also need to know that while their input is valued, you make the final determination.
So how do you get to that place?
Leaders are Insatiable Learners
Read, then read some more. Block out time in your schedule to read about topics that you feel you need to be more informed and therefore more confident in. Read multiple sources to get a rounded view. Be sure to qualify those sources and make sure that the motives of the author are in line with what you want to accomplish.
Many times generic resources are just out to gain commissions by you clicking a link. They are well crafted to cater to a lack of knowledge or a desire for ease. Just because information is on a web page or in Wikipedia does not mean that it is effective or fact.
If you feel that a strategy sounds too good to be true or you cannot see how that would be beneficial to your brand -- then that tells you to investigate further. Dig deeper; learn more. Do your due diligence.
Make a point of checking the date of the data or information. While some content is "evergreen", technology posts that are years old can be irrelevant. If info doesn't correlate with recently dated posts you can safely disregard. Technology doesn't sit still for any of us and information can become outdated very quickly.
Keeping Your Team Invested
Having a team doesn't necessarily mean just those directly employed by you. It also includes those you partner with for various portions of your program. Being technology evolves at practically the speed of light you just cannot take the my-way or the highway approach based on what you are willing to do. Be prepared to do what is required.
Team members must to feel free to provide their input and you should let them know that their advice is considered and appreciated. Then if applicable follow through and implement it. Imagine how you would feel if you are providing advice and it is never followed or considered.
Another quality of a great leader is the ability to listen. Just be quiet and listen. There is no way that you know everything nor can you make educated decisions in areas that are not your expertise. Know what you know and know what you don't know. Your partners and team members will appreciate the honesty in that approach.
Include your team in your decision making process. Then by letting them know why you made the decisions you did makes them feel invested in the process. A process where all involved will learn how to better serve the each-other and the greater good.
A Pack of Wolves:
The three in front are old & sick, they walk in front to set the pace of the running group lest they get left behind.
The next five are the strongest & best, they are tasked to protect the front side if there is an attack.
The pack in the middle are always protected from any attack.
The five behind them are also among the strongest & best; they are tasked to protect the back side if there is an attack.
The last one is the LEADER. He ensures that no one is left behind and keeps the pack unified and on the same path. He is always ready to run in any direction to protect & serves as the 'bodyguard' to the entire group.
This is what it really means to be a leader. It's not about being out front. It means taking care of the team.
Your Team and Partners are a Reflection of You
Some "leaders" prefer those who just do what they are told. But rarely does that produce partnerships or teams that are willing to go that extra mile.
Letting your team know that you have their back, that they are part of what makes your business one to be proud of is not always easy. But it is worth the effort and your success depends upon it.
At your service,