My first job as a leader was to lead the staff in a medical billing office. Even though I had a bachelor’s degree in management, my education did not quite prepare me for leading or managing other people. I was one of the better billers and therefore the next obvious choice for manager of the department.
I’m sad to say I did not possess much in the way of leadership skills back then – in fact, I never gave it much thought. It was a promotion and I was going to make those folks fall in line. Yeah…right.
Many people fall into leadership in much the same way. You’re the best widget maker. Why not put you in charge of all the other widget makers?
Because leadership is a completely different skill set, oftentimes you struggle to figure out how to get people to follow you. The thing is, it’s not as much about what you know or what you can do but who you are that sets good leaders apart from not so good ones. Leadership is best defined as the process by which one individual influences a group of individuals toward achievement of a common goal. Two of the key words in that definition is influence and common which should indicate that leadership is not making people bend to your will and achieve goals that serve you.
Have you given much thought to what type of leader you are?
Are you a servant leader?
A transformational leader?
How about a Level 5 leader as Jim Collins described in his bestseller Good to Great?
Servant leaders are most concerned with how they treat subordinates and the outcomes that are likely to emerge. Transformational leaders transform people by focusing on emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals. Level 5 leaders influence their followers through a blend of personal humility and professional will.
If you’re new to a leadership position or if you’re struggling to influence your followers, below are some steps you can take to start becoming the leader you want to be:
- Set aside some quiet time to write a narrative about what qualities you want to possess as a leader. How would you solve problems? How would you communicate with your team? How would your communication be received? Be detailed in your narrative.
- Consider what legacy you want to leave in your organization. How do you want to serve your followers and your organization?
- What qualities do you value in leaders you admire?
- Start researching different leaderships styles, focusing on the ones that speak to you the most
- Check with your organization about any leadership conferences you may be able to attend
- Consider hiring a leadership coach to help you understand what leadership style best suits you. Coaches can often assist you in understanding yourself better and how to best develop the skills you seek.
My best advice is this: Leadership is a process, not a destination. Enjoy the journey. Whatever type of leader you most resonate with, you’re likely to have far better results if you don’t wing it and hope for the best.