Start with Your Own Leadership Vision
Lately I’ve been teaching quite a few seminars on leadership. Each time I start to put together a program for a new group, I rethink the best way to introduce the topic.
There are so many great books out there (many of the 50 or so favorites reviewed on my website touch upon the topic). But leadership is like love – sometimes we know it when we see it, but it’s complex, slippery to define and challenging to study or teach.
What I keep getting back to is that if we wish to become better leaders, we can’t simply borrow a formula from experts. Instead, each of us must develop our own vision of what leadership looks like.
My own vision of the concept is that leadership isn’t so much about what we do, as about what we are. And in many respects we can choose what we are, and what we want to become. Furthermore, when we don’t get it right, we can always try again.
Here are more aspects of what I think it takes to be a leader:
o Your development as a leader is tied to your development as a person.
o To lead change effectively, you must be engaged in changing yourself.
o To look like a leader in the workplace, demonstrate that you can manage yourself. Routinely practice managing your emotions, your energy, your time and your priorities.
• Self awareness
o Management guru Daniel Goleman’s research demonstrated that great leaders are distinguished from the mediocre ones by their level of “emotional intelligence.” And the most important emotional competence is self awareness – knowing your internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions.
o Among the ways to improve self awareness are writing in a journal, developing a meditation practice or working with a coach.
• Being positive
o A leader’s attitude has an enormous impact on the team. Most people are more productive when they are around positive people.
o In the workplace, positive feedback is more effective than negative feedback in promoting change or fostering productivity.
o Even if you were born a pessimist, you can learn to be more upbeat and optimistic.
o When we are mindful, we are actually listening to and focusing upon the people around us. We feel centered, rather than bored or disconnected.
o We all engage in mindless activity, like when we’re driving our car and realize that we can’t recall the last few miles. And we see that others are mindless, like the guy at the meeting who is playing with his BlackBerry instead of listening to the discussion.
o Research shows that other people can tell whether or not our state is mindful. If our team members sense that we are present, they are more likely to see us as genuine and charismatic leaders.
o We can encourage mindfulness in the way we frame our tasks, focus on process instead of just on outcome, and make an effort to actively listen.
o This Japanese management term includes the idea that very small steps can lead to sweeping change. Even if you face serious obstacles, you can move toward big goals by starting with the tiniest imaginable steps.
o To start a big project, take just one small step forward, and then commit to another small step every day this week. For example, you can apply Kaizen in your personal life by launching a fitness program with just five minutes of walking each day.
o Leadership may begin with the feeling that one wants to serve, perhaps to help others to succeed and to grow.
o “Servant leadership” emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power.
o Values such as compassion are not enough to assure successful leadership. To achieve their goals, effective leaders develop work habits and systems associated with productivity.
Tools like calendars, “to-do” lists and planning forms might work well at one stage of your career but be insufficient as you move up the hierarchy. It is useful to periodically review our systems, and ask whether new approaches might bring greater productivity.
o To be at their best, leaders must manage not just their time but also their energy.
o Physical energy is linked to exercise, nutrition and stress management.
o Other sources of energy include one’s family, community and social activity, fun, creative pursuits intellectual challenge and spiritual life.