Are leaders born or made? Do you have the competencies to be a leader? Is your emotional intelligence consistent with successful leadership? Will your strengths match what you need to effectively lead?
There are so many questions swirling around leadership and if you choose to lead, you will feel bombarded with images of what leadership looks like and chances are you’ll judge yourself against them. Who has time to delve into all the leadership information while having a fulltime career?
It is my belief that we need to shift from “doing” leadership and focus on “being” a leader. As we become more intelligent about leadership and motivation, we also create more judgments about it. This blocks the ability to allow each of us to identify our core talent to be a leader. With over 25-years of leadership coaching, training, and consulting, I have not found one person who does not have the core ability to be a leader.
According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, despite the high unemployment rate, more than 2 million Americans voluntarily leave their job every month. Why are so many people quitting? Four reasons: they don’t like their boss; they lack empowerment; internal politics; and lack of recognition.
Leaders have the opportunity to change this pattern and retain the employees they don’t want to lose. Not through learning more about what it takes to be an effective leader, but through focusing on how to be a leader that others want to follow.
Being present is the strongest leadership skill you can possess. You don’t always have to be right or be the wisest person in the world to be an effective leader, but being present will create the greatest amount of trust and respect.
While researching my book, Leadership Energy: Unlocking the Secrets to Your Success, one of the survey participants summed up the “be present leader”, saying, “In a confident, almost charismatic and very friendly voice, my leader looks me in the eye and delivers compelling statements which tell me he genuinely cares about the business, the customer, and the team (me) in a balanced manner. He provides enough information to demonstrate thoughtful consideration, provides direction, asks what help I need, and makes time for me when I ask for 15 minutes to chat during which I always have his complete, undivided attention.”
So how can you be present when your organization, your projects, your customers/clients, your family, and your team all need so many things from you? Here are three practical tools you can use to bring things back into focus:
- 1. Take charge of the speed dial: our natural tendency when we are juggling many things is to move faster. Leaders need to slow the speed dial for effective solutions.
- 2.Turn down the volume: high speed and high anxiety turn up the volume on everything. Quiet your voice, quiet your mind, and turn down the volume.
- 3. Move one step at a time: focus on what the next step is.
Meet Julie. Julie has a strong desire to advance in her career. She works tirelessly, sometimes 70 to 80-hours per week, and achieves great results. Although she has a team that reports to her, she complains that she has no one to whom she can delegate work. During her performance reviews, she consistently hears that she needs to engage and develop other people’s potential, but she is not able to bring out the best in her team. A recent employee survey indicates that her employees see Julie’s expectations as too high and they want more connection to others in their workday.
Sound familiar? If it’s not you, perhaps it is someone you work with or for.
In a recent blog, human resources expert Susan Heathfield wrote, “Employees don’t need to be friends with their boss but they do need to have a relationship.” When employees or direct reports are saying, “No one cares around here”, you’ve got a problem. All the technical skills in the world can’t replace leader’s care and concern for employees. Keep in mind that in exchange for this care and concern, followers will become more productive, more energized, and more engaged.
Here is a simple but not easy solution: sit down and ask followers what they need to be engaged and happy. Simple, right? Not really, as it requires more than scheduling a meeting. It requires you to actually listen and integrate the knowledge you gain from the meeting into your daily interactions with each and every member of your team.
As leaders gain followers, the followers look to the leader to create roadmaps of where to head for success. For many new leaders, the creation of this road map can seem overwhelming.
The majority of leaders I work with are high-achievers. What motivates a high achiever? Getting an “A” on every endeavor they undertake. Now you become the leader who needs to set the road map or vision for you team. There are no guaranteed A’s on this road map. Granted your organization has a vision and goals, but for most followers, the organization’s vision gets lost in the many demands they have. Gallup organization’s Q12 Engagement Survey found that “the best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.” What does that mean for the vision you set for your team?
Much like Julie, the majority of leaders I work with have been promoted to their leadership position based on hard work and results, not on creating vision and engagement for their team. As they move into these roles, they need to shift from being 80 percent technical expert to 80 percent people expert. That is a major challenge, so what do you do?
Being clear is not about adding complexity; being clear is about simplifying. Start by asking yourself three questions:
- 1. What do I want for my team?
- 2. What does my team bring to the organization?
- 3. What do we want to achieve and celebrate as a team?
The answers do not lie in numbers and profits. Most employees don’t get out of bed each morning trying to hit a profit number. Think beyond numbers and profits; think about the types of successes and the reasons you and your employees want to bring passion, focus, and results to their world of work.
Above all else, you must be genuinely you. Don’t be a mini-someone else. You have to operate knowing that you have everything you need to be a leader. Can you polish a few things? Sure. Will you learn ways to become more effective? Absolutely, but the canvas that you work from is you. I rarely meet a leader who is 180 degrees off the mark in being a leader that others want to follow.
Here are three things to increase the level of genuine you’re bringing to the office:
- 1. Be vulnerable; if you don’t know, admit it.
- 2. Admit your mistakes and then make it right.
- 3. Act with integrity. Integrity means to do the right thing even when no one is watching.
If you focus your leadership on being present, concerned, clear, and genuine, your leadership confidence, focus, and results will grow. As you grow, so will your team. Everyone wins!
Cheryl Leitschuh, Ed.D., RCC is a leadership development specialist. She inspires individuals and organizations to reach their aspirations using the right tools at the right time. Her latest book, The Leadership Energy: Unlocking the Secrets to Your Success, is an Amazon best seller in the leadership energy category. You will find additional tools and resources to expand your success by visiting TheLeadershipEnergy.com