After 25 years of teaching leadership and engaging audiences with the question of what it takes to be a good leader, these five P words sum it up nicely and provide compelling new leader guidance. The power of these P words is in their clarity of who leadership is about, what leaders are looking for, and what effective leaders do with and for those they lead. Whether new to leadership, transitioning to leadership or an old hat at being a corporate leader, military leader, or simply the leader of your own life and family, these P words provide a principal-based foundation on which you can build your leadership growth. Each P word also has an action item for you to continue the leadership learning.
Leaders look at different things than managers. Those who lead well often also look AT things differently than other leaders. Perspective is powerful. That person who appears difficult might look different if you examined your expectations and discovered they were not in alignment with the person’s capacity to perform. That frustration a manager might feel over an org chart change might be seen very differently by a leader who has a different perspective. Effective leaders develop their own unique perspective and are open to gaining a new perspective or seeing things from someone else’s perspective. What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of perspective? Lead yourself to actively seek out other and different points of view even when you have a firm belief in an area or about a person.
Each person you lead has value. Each person you lead contributes some valuable trait, skill, or behavior, even if it requires a microscope to see. I have joked about this concept for years, but I find leaders still to be dismissive of those behaviors that are unlike their own. Strong, successful, and effective leaders look for potential in the people they lead. They are constantly seeking out the internal kernel of potential and use a variety of methods with which to uncover or discover it. Does that culinary manager have a natural talent for operations? Maybe you have a future member of the operations team succession plan. Does that front line employee on the help desk often get caught helping and developing other team members and staying late to do so? Maybe that person has management potential. What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of potential? Lead yourself to actively pay attention to what employees do and what they dislike doing. What others do with enthusiasm is usually based on a natural inclination to do it well.
Before you balk at what appears to be a statement about leaders needing even more power than their title provides, let me clarify my thinking in this area. An effective leader needs power and it is derived more often from influence and respect than any title. The Power Principle serves to remind leaders that without power, delivering consequences is a challenge. If people are not looking to the leader for direction, leadership, and guidance, then they are looking at someone who holds more power of persuasion to motivate their actions. Said more simply, without power, you have no leadership. Without leadership you have no followers. Without followers, you are one of the front line and that position is a well-respected one and outside the scope of our focus, which is on how to become a better leader. What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of power? Show them that you care about more than just their results. Lead yourself to actively pursue ways to show them you care about employees and colleagues as people. Take an interest in who they are, what they do and don’t do, and why they do and don’t do it and then seek to provide solutions, different job assignments, or different strategies of motivation. Meet them where they live and they’ll respect you for arriving. Force them to join you and they’ll resent the request to make the journey.
Since 2001, when I wrote the first edition of Contagious Leadership and in every training and keynote since, I’ve espoused that leadership is contagious. Everything you do, see, say, think, believe and how you behave rubs off on those you lead. The real question is do these P’s rub off and the answer is yes. If you want to become a better leader, these first 3 P words are principles you need. Stay tuned for Part 2 to be published on June 1, 2015.