Have you ever noticed that when you take on a new role it can feel like you are wearing someone else’s clothes? It honestly can feel like you have left your authentic self behind. By definition adopting a new role as a leader entails growth or change, and more often than not, this creates internal resistance in us. Ever notice that in yourself? Since change requires that you give up many things that are familiar so that you can cross over an “edge”, you likely can find yourself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. For a new or aspiring leader there are many ways to prepare and approach this transition as smoothly as possible.
Here are 7 ways that will start you on your path to becoming………
- Look Within and in order to Lead from Within
To grow as a leader it is essential to focus on the internal. To lead effectively you first must learn to “lead from within”. This is the great separator between those who succeed in leadership and those who don’t. As a leader you must learn to not only lead team, but you also must learn to practice leading yourself and from within. Leading from within is the ability to know yourself. Try reflecting on the following 5 questions:
- Why do I want to be a leader?
- What do I want to contribute, change, create?
- Who am I and who do I want to be as a leader?
- How do I need to act and think in order to be the best me I can be?
- What kind of environment do I want to co-create with my team?
When you lead from within you take the time to define a direction for your life and for you as a leader. You have to get clear on your values and the kind of culture you want to co-create. You must learn to move in the direction aligned with your answers to the above questions with consistency, clarity and transparency over time. And, of course, don’t be surprised when you find, like me that you need to revisit your personal leadership vision on a regular basis. (That’s how I will spend some time this summer. Revisiting my personal vision as a leader and a coach.
Move in the direction aligned with your answers. Repeat often. That is leading from within.
- Let your brilliance shine
Simply put, find out what’s unique about you, and use your uniqueness to your advantage. Pay special attention to your strengths. It is common practice for most of us to take our strengths for granted. We seem to believe that our strengths have come from an unseen source and will take care of themselves. We incorrectly think that in order to develop we need to focus on fixing our weaknesses. But don’t be fooled!
It has been demonstrated by Zenger Folkman (Strengths Based Leadership Development Theory) that only a small number of strengths can elevate leaders to be highly effective. Knowing this it makes the best sense, that to raise your overall brilliance and effectiveness as a leader, work on elevating your strengths and only pay attention to weaknesses that may be seen as “fatal flaws”. And as even more evidence, Gallup’s 40 year study of human strengths (Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0) says that “People who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general”.
Work on your strengths. Leverage them and watch your brilliance shine.
- Have a Vision
Having a vision gives you purpose and meaning. For leadership that means having a vision that is shared, understood and inspiring to all who will be part of making that vision a reality. Together, everyone on your team must co-create an implementation plan that they “buy into”. This makes it possible for everyone to be clear on how their role fits into the scheme of things and the importance their contributions have in implementing the team’s vision, mission, goals and strategies. As well, your team will have an easier time being aligned as you prioritize the goals that matter to the team most.
Your vision has the power to be the architect of your reality!
- Relationship before Task
As a new leader you no doubt have the desire to show your team that you have the ability to make things happen. Action items are the language of productivity in our organizations and results-oriented commitment to action is one of the hallmarks of successful leadership. But watch out for the trap! Putting task before relationship helps you get a lot accomplished, but getting stuff done at the expense of relationships counterintuitively doesn’t really result in the level of excellence that is possible. Building strong relationships before working on tasks will create a high trust, WE-centric® environment that enables the team to partner, co-create and innovate effectively. When you focus on relationships first you will become familiar with what is important to each of your team members. You will be able to reciprocally “step into each other’s shoes” – stand under each other’s reality and be able to have open healthy conversations no matter how challenging the issue. This type of environment results in high productivity and excellence. So as a new leader, take the time to formally and informally build relationships with each and every person on your team.
Use the power of your relationships. Together you will move mountains!
- Be Curious and Ask Questions
Many of us believe that leadership can be very lonely. And it is lonely if you think that being an effective leader means you have all the answers and that you will be making all the decisions. That is simply wrong. True leadership is about being inquisitive; finding out what others think and know. Successful leaders always ask questions for which they do not have the answers. They are curious and interested in finding out as much as they can from their team. Through questioning and curiosity leaders develop a shared understanding of success. It is this shared understanding that creates alignment among team members.
Alignment means the team is rowing in the same direction. How powerful is that!
- Embrace Failure
The concept of embracing failure seems to be popular now more than ever probably because business success in today’s high speed knowledge-based economy requires a higher level of risk than ever before. I do believe that no matter how well prepared we are, or how smart we are, we cannot always get things right the first time. So the reality is that success is most likely to be preceded by multiple failures. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that healthy organizations have an appetite for risk and “embrace” failure.
We have heard about the importance of embracing failure before from the likes of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, etc. For them, and for all of us, experimentation needs to be viewed as the new normal. And, as experimentors it is obvious that failure is something each and every one of us will experience and so we will need to get comfortable with it. All of us fail at some point; it’s getting up again and moving forward that counts. “Growth” requires you to be able to experience failures, learn from them and move forward. The bonus is that these occurrences will provide some of your most useful lessons. In the end, failure by itself is not something anyone wants. It’s the success that follows failure that we all seek.
So fail away! Its the first step on the journey to success!
- Work with a coach
The best way to grow as a leader is to have external support. Coaches help you tap into your inner leader. They can be a powerful resource who can help you get out of your own way, stand out, and take action to achieve the things that are truly important to you. They help you to understand your path and your purpose and keep you grounded and focused. Coaches help you identify and address your patterns, both positive and negative. They can help you identify your own unique path to leadership success.
Isn’t it time you hired a coach? Call me!