Let’s play with words for a moment. One of my most fond leadership influences, was my high school principal. We feared him, loved him and knew he had a paddle, and wasn’t afraid to use it. His role was that of principal, but looking back on it, it is clear he also operated from a pretty clear set of principles. Those who played a memorable role in your own leadership development, are still wielding influence and likely left you with a set of rules, or principles you follow. What are they? Are they what you wish to pass on to future leaders? Have you found any that just don’t feel right for you for some reason? The principles we follow drive culture and commitment. They fuel motivation for behavior. They inspire or thwart loyal followers and may or may not be developing our future leaders to perform better than their predecessors. In an effort to clarify and confirm our own rules or principles and set our budding leaders up for exceptional futures, today’s Monday Moment with Monica shares the rules the great leaders follow and the ones that could provide a new leader with a much needed simple template.
When talking with Gen X or boomer leaders, the chief complaint of the generations coming in behind us is often that they lack responsibility. Whether we failed to teach them those traits or their environment was simply so different that responsibility did not have an opportunity to be fostered, when you own your own actions and behaviors, you will set the example for future leaders. When something goes wrong, own it. When a result is not met and there were multiple people involved in the effort, own the result and demonstrate how leadership is in fact, responsible for outcomes, regardless of the team effort or intent. The best leaders own what has happened, what was interpreted, and what transpired as a result. The best leaders adhere to the principle of being responsible for the result of their words, thoughts, deeds, directions, and actions.
Those same great leaders are always looking for ways to achieve improvement. How can we make it better and how can we be, or become, better, are frequent leader questions. Grow your own development and the development of others consistently and follow the guiding belief that there is likely always a new way or better or different way to accomplish nearly everything. Just because one is doing the best that he or she can doesn’t mean it is being done in the best way that he or she could attain. The best leaders grow their knowledge and skill sets regularly and over the period of a lifetime. The best leaders adhere to the principle of finding ways to continuously take action toward regular, and even constant, improvement of themselves, their awareness, and the abilities, skills, and potential of others.
The phrase lead by example applies to roles as varied as parenting to mentoring, but also to the official position of leader or manager, supervisor, or vice president. The power in the phrase is to remind us all that those we lead watch what we do and how and when. Employees take their cues from our actions and approach to nearly all situations. It is in the act of showing your proficiency that employees are then able to see opportunities to perform better, or to make better decisions on how to conduct themselves when faced with an issue similar. However, showing what you know as a leader, also means showing your humility when you don’t know something. Be willing to learn together and show that you, too, don’t know everything. The best leaders show more than tell or talk about their abilities. The best leaders adhere to the guiding principle that it’s easy to use words, but more effective to show actions.
To be honest, this principle makes me giggle. Knowing your stuff for leaders is about proficiency, but all that runs through my mind is when your happy and you know it, clap your hands! So, before you run around the office clapping in unison, consider this: the proficiency, knowledge, know-how and skills that got you promoted INTO leadership, are not the ones that will get you promoted to the next level of leading others. Know where your needs are and seek to fill them with new knowledge, skillsets, or training. Know who you are and stay true to the principles, along with these, that guide your choices and behavior. Know what you’re doing, which means if you’re new to leading, make that a focus for your continuous learning and improvement. And lastly, know who it is that you have the privilege of leading. The best leaders know their stuff in one or two, or maybe a few, areas of expertise. The best leaders also know their boundaries, when to rely on the knowledge of others, and when to transition from what was well done enough to achieve promotion to what is needed to succeed in the new position.
Like and Love It
The power of this principle depends much upon how you define “it”. Do you like your position and the people you get to work with? Do you love the responsibility and privilege of leadership? Love your industry? Love your job most days, but less than like it on others? There is no right or wrong answer to such questions, and all are a matter of energy and personal preference. All leaders can put up with a bit of yuck if at the end, they enjoy what they do and who with, more than they hate certain aspects. The great leaders often began leading something about which they had passion. Take the time to make that internal examination. Is there still passion driving your interest? No one is asking you to start skipping down the hall in enthusiasm, but simply to be mindful of the clear existence of positive feelings about your work or your position. Once those feelings disappear, so do things like putting forth extra effort and being truly driven to find the right solution.
The best leaders have a set of guiding principles. They’re likely not even conscious of it, unless they’ve done the work to craft or uncover specific belief statements. But, whether you, as the leader of others, are aware of the rules you follow, your own personal principles, or not, they’re still driving the bus of your leadership behavior and how others see you operate in any number of situations. If you want to be in the category of the top leaders in the near future, remember to own it, grow it, show it, know it, and like and/or love parts, if not all of, your chosen position.
Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?
Each Monday Moment with Monica shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge relevant to that week’s topic and this week, your challenge is to record the principles most important to you. These are often identified by thinking of the words that follow must, should, have to, or required. These may not be the same rules of others you work with and while that’s not personal, it can make others appear difficult. Make a list of your most important principles so that you can see a violation of them for what it is versus reacting by defending a belief that before now, was not even conscious.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!
Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.