At this point of time i feel that its a good moment to fixate my learnings about leadership. The ones i felt how i would like to go, the ones i learnt by horrible mistakes or blind spots and the ones i read about. Why do i want to write about them? Just to reflect my situation and where i am now and what i want to reach. Some things i already live quite well, some things i want to achieve. Lets dive in directly with the first and biggest learning: leading starts with yourself!
Lead yourself first
This is the way most important thing about leadership i see: when you’re not able to lead yourself, you can’t lead others. Well you can, but you will not be as effective and successful as you could be. So the journey to become a great leader, starts with your first step to reflect yourself regularly. It is very helpful to be aware about the situation in yourself and in the others around you. This gives you the possibility to see the chances you and others have in this exact moment. And seeing more options opens a whole new universe of possible solutions.
Be respectful with yourself. This one starts with the thoughts you have and goes over the actions you take. If someone around you is consequently and constantly disrespecting you or your role, than first of all talk to them, if this doesn’t help to their boss and if it still doesn’t change, do yourself a favor and move on to the next position. Easy as this: you always have the option to accept it, change it or leave.
Win the inner game: don’t let the lazy dog do his “laying in the sun” game. Go progressive against procrastination! Don’t shout out every angry comment you have in your mind. Often its not making the situation going anywhere good. Don’t rant around about everything and everyone. Sometimes its good to show the energy of anger, but you should spare it for the points when the time is ripe and your peers are open for the extra energy shot. Exploding daily makes it common and nobody will listen to you any longer. So in a nutshell: you are the boss of the feelings you have and show. Win the fights with yourself, to win the ones outside.
The next point of leadership is focusing. I know a lot of guys with great ideas. They have plenty of them and are keen about all of them. They start to build a thing and a week later they tend to the next one and leave the first one aside unfinished. By this habit they leave a trail of started projects and none of them works. Sometimes its the point, that they tend not to get over the dip in a new area and sometimes they just leave it die because there is a newer, more sexy thing around. With focus on only a small set of goals or projects you will always reach better results. If you only have a little set of objectives, it will be easier to stay on track and reach them. When you finish one, you can and should put a new one on your list. My maximum which worked out very well was three goals at a time. More goals and i tended to not make the goals big enough. Less worked well, but if there is a external blocker in one thing, which you only can influence and not shape directly, its getting a bit unfocused again. You have no goal number two and don’t want to open a new one without finishing the old one. A small dilemma, but it’s ok. So three objectives is my favorite. By prioritizing them in the Eisenhower matrix you can assure to not work on things which are not important and urgent. More great hints on how to get the right things done are in the book Eat That Frog!.
In my eyes having a vision is another key to lead yourself to something great. Sure, often in life there is no easy planning for how to go step by step to where you want to end up in your carreer. You meet the most important people in your life sometimes on purpose and sometimes just by accident. But forming a clear vision helps seeing when the right ones stand in your door. You get the chance to feel that there is someone who can give you something, if you have your why as concise as possible in your mind. With the why often a what and a how comes for free. Find the leaders worthy to follow. And search for them! Look for great visions and the ability to inspire others with the ideas and the questions!
The last two things you can do are being proud and keeping your ego in its healthy boundaries. As often in life it is important to have a good balance. Here this means to have a standing, an opinion and to not stand still on this opinion. If there is a better way to see things, switch to it. If the new way doesn’t work out well after a time: go back! Be agile and flexible in your mind. Nothing is worth leadership than staying stubborn on your old point and expecting better results than you already got. Some things should form your core values. You should not touch these values. For example one of my core values is respect. Sure, its sometimes hard to maintain, if somebody is disrespectful over and over again on purpose, but its worth to have such a value and i won’t skip it for little things.
Lead others to grow leaders too
As we’ve talked about things which touch only you, lets see how to handle the easier part: the others 🙂
One thing i would like to point out first is this: don’t talk patronizingly to others. This gives them a feeling of not being worthy and takes away motivation. Even more you should not think about others in such a way. It already forms your actions and your mindset in a way where your opposite feels whatever they say, you are or feel to be the better one. Which is not only a strange feeling, but also a demotivating factor. The opposite of thinking like this is to ask for their ideas and try to get them involved by heart. This is done by letting them create the things they invented. They proposed a good product feature? Let the ones who had the idea build it! They came up with a better process? Let them improve the status quo with the help of you! They will feel included, valued and worthy. They are in it with their full hearts!
To have your team and coworkers on your side, you need to be crystal clear in where to go, how and why. That’s a key to have the ones which care, on your side (the other ones you will never get, they are already gone in their mind). You need to come up with a vision and communicate it. When you’ve clearified what the goal is, you can always set borders around it and communicate respectful feedback. This is needed to not get lost in anarchy and stay on track. Like parents you need to say “no” to things which get the organization and the team away from its goals. Its your responsibility as the leader to watch out where the team is going. And this borders, rules and visions have to be repeated over and over again! The repitition has to be done until things are improved and everyone understands the why behind the what.
Lets talk about one not so nice part of leading: the complains. Whatever you do, decide or tell, there could be someone complaining or even hating it. I am not sure, if it is a limiting belief, but you can’t be with every decision on the “love it” side for everybody everytime. So expect to make hard decisions and get harsh feedback from above, your side and the ones you lead. A big help for me always is to separate what is against me and what against my role. Try to find out where the complains come from. Is it an unfulfilled need? Try to figure out how to fill this hole. Is it a demotivation? Try to explain and find a motivator which you can use now. The key is to only solve the issues which are the root cause and not fiddle around with the symptoms. They will come back again with the next decision.
Ok, enough of the hard parts – back to the loving parts again! When you lead, you have responsibility. And with responsibilty comes the obligation to care for others. In my eyes one of the good reasons to become a leader. Make sure noone is overloaded with work or responsibility. That’s not easy: one guy can handle a workload or responsibility which is way to much for the next guy. Also the actual personal situation has to be considered. Most people can handle more when in a save position at home and at work. If there are hard times at home, it is not healthy to keep the same load on their shoulders as before. Whenever you give someone more responsibility make sure, that she gets the time to grow into the new situation. Nothing is more demotivating than being thrown into the too cold water. It is substantive to make sure they know it is their responsibility now and exactly in which steps they will grow into it. Therefore it is necessary to formulate the goals and steps as SMART as you can. Try to find the best fit for the organisations and the peoples needs. Watch out that they have everything they need! Including time, the support and all materials you can find and afford. Not only for the set of goals, but also for being the best version of themselve! Take a close look on the “attractive” part of the SMART goals. If the person is not accepting the goal you set, the end of the story will be disappointment. I know that not every interpretation of the smart acronym is with an attractive, but there is always an equivalent. Without the inner support of the one you lead, the failure is programmed and waiting in one or the other way. Assure, that your followers know the goal, like the goal and belief in theirself. Therefore appreciate their successes as often as you can and make failure a pleasure to learn from. No fingerpointing, no blaming, just say “that went wrong, lets have a look what we can learn and how we can do better!”. It’s as easy as this: be respectful! Nobody makes mistakes on purpose or to do harm. Or at least very few people. And if so, find out, if it is in their personality and set borders. If these don’t work, pick them out.
Try to delegate as much as you can. If you share responsibilty with your followers everyone wins: you win time to focus on better things than doing the daily work and the others win the chance to grow and feel seen in their full potential. Everybody can be happier with shared responsibilities.
By letting others grow around you and giving them the chance to grow into a great leader too, they learn to handle things in a healthy way. They are not thrown into a leaders role from zero to one hundred percent in a day, they can take over things slowly and learn to handle inner and outer factors in small and growing scopes. By this the things are not outgrowing and the feeling of being overwhelmed is not so often present.
The last two points i want to share are those: stay until its sure you have raised good leaders which can take over the situation and search for great leaders to follow by your own. When you stay till you know the new leaders are able to handle things in a good way, you are not leaving burned ground. Sure, sometimes the situation is hardened and there is no other way than leaving. For instance if you find yourself in a mismatch of your values and the organizations values. Or if constant disrespect is given to you or your role. If talking isn’t making things better, than you should pack your stuff together and search for something new. Here comes the last big point into play: if you change your position, search for environments that fit at least at the base to you, your values and your ideas. Therefore search for the leaders which do something better than you. Those you can learn from in one or the other way. Those, which inspire you just by little talks. Which let you grow and which are searching for more than power by having a leadership position. For instance they can be interested in virtuous circles or in the people around them. It is your responsibility to have a very close look where to go next before you leave anywhere! Be picky! Don’t go for less, you only have this one live and you want to life it as great as you can. Therefore try to find the best overall! One last hint: don’t blame yourself, if you made a mistake with one of your steps. Learn from it and go further!
What experiences do you have with leadership? What great points did you find in others, which made you follow them immediately? What worked well for you? Please let a comment, if you have great insights or if you liked this article!
Thanks for reading and have fun leading your life! 🙂