I never get tired of reading and writing about leadership.
I remember in university a professor of leadership told us that there were so many books about leadership in our library that it felt like it was an infinite subject. A beat-up subject he even said.
Well, I realize now, 20+ years later that leadership is truly an infinite subject because it is conducted by people for people and people change continuously.
Leadership today is not the leadership of Jack Welch or Abraham Lincoln or even Nelson Mandela. I’m not about to tell you what today’s leadership is all about but I would like to unpack 5 dimensions that I deeply resonate with and that I think leaders must master early in their career.
1. Lead people, don’t dominate them
People want to learn from a knowledgeable leader (achievable even if you’re not a subject matter expert).
They also want to be acknowledged for their talent, capabilities to deliver for you and for the team (give them projects and responsibilities beyond what you think they can do, let them surprise you).
They want direction not micro-management (yuk).
Set them free, trust them, you will be totally surprised (this does not prevent you from doing regular checks).
Detect talent and unleash it in your people, this is what inspiring leaders do naturally. They will outsmart you, that is what you want.
They will outshine you, that is what you want.
They will out deliver you, also what you want
They will out-stand you. Yess!
You get it.
Avoid treating people like disposable goods (disastrous leadership)
- Hire/layoff constantly (no one will trust you and they will not apply on your open positions)
- Hire even if you don’t know exactly how long you need them for (you can always lay off later right? Geez)
- Don’t pay attention your people’s need for development and exciting projects (they love being ignored that way)
Leaders who do this destroy team spirit, team performance and company culture.
2. Earn your right to lead (don’t use your title)
For some reason, lots of leaders think that being strategic or being politically savvy means to know how to manipulate others to get what they want for themselves.
You know what, I’ve never met someone who said “I like it when the boss manipulates me” and I can tell you right now that people know it when they are being lied to, manipulated or when information is being withheld from them. The more you do any of these, the more they become defensive, they doubt your integrity and they withdraw their trust.
Cultivate your relationships, even with people who you don’t get along with. Great leaders thrive in relationship building. The most challenging bring you the most learning and growth.
When people sense that you care for their growth and that you trust them, they will trust you and trust is the foundation of all relationships.
Bottom line your people work with you, not for you.
Another trust builder is being authentic. Either you’re going “not that beat-up subject again” or you’re thinking “I’m authentic so let’s move on”.
Well here’s the thing, how much do you reveal yourself? Give information to receive it, not too much but still heartfelt shares are usually appreciated.
Be approachable and smile. Yes, smile.
Say Hi to your people in the morning and goodbye at night (easy? I’d say 50% of leaders don’t do that). Be honest, do you walk straight into your office in the morning or run to your first meeting in a rush? If that’s your pattern, you did not take time to say Hi. You would be surprised at how much information people will share (about work I mean) as you take time to pass by and say Hi. Take an extra 10-15 minutes to do your round in the morning and in the evening, that way you will catch everyone at least once.
Warm eye contact, genuine concern, listening with interest and intention. You can do this.
4. Manage Change not Chaos
This one is a whole article in itself.
Leaders are constantly asked to lead change. Think of it:
- Implement a new process
- Implement a new system for your team of for the entire organization
- Make a reorganization
- Develop a new product
- Open new markets
- Change the company’s branding
- Change the way recruitment is done
Embracing change is amongst your top priorities as a leader and it will make you move toward your next level (if that’s what you want). Analyze the career progression of your colleagues and friends that are change resistant and those who are change leaders. Let me know what you observe.
Not panicking in the face of change, communicating clearly the aligned message (not your opinion or your own understanding of the change). If you did not understand the change that is asked of you, if you disagree with it, that’s fine. Ask questions and challenge the need for change until you are on-board. The opposite will drag you down and wreck your team’s performance as well as your career.
Leaders who can’t or won’t lead change slowly lose their credibility and the trust of their colleagues, team and boss.
5. Serve your organization (don’t disrespect it)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people start in a new organization and instead of working towards being accepted, they actively disrespect the new organization by constantly describing how they it in the previous organization. Bringing their ideas as “better” than what is currently being done. Wanting to change too many things too quickly (this is interpreted as judgmental and condescending). I know, you want to help, you want to put your experience to the service of this new company.
Even if you were hired to make large changes, even if you are a total change agent and you love/want to make changes, please, please use respect and a strong process to bring about changes.
A leader who undermines people will be undermined by them.
Leadership is hard. Being a good leader in one organization does not make one a good leader in the next organization or the next team or the next mandate.
Transitions are delicate moments.
Managing a change is a difficult endeavor.
If you are a leader combining both, be extra conscious in your daily gestures, words and behaviors.