“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine” ~ Chris Hadfield
While management skills can be complicated, they are also tangible – performance management processes, recruitment and selection, reporting, quality assurance, financial management…
Leadership skills, on the other hand, are often ephemeral and elusive.
Today I’m going to focus on ten simple, practical things you can do right now to radically transform your leadership practice.
Listen more, talk less
“Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening” ~ Larry King
It’s amazing what you can learn if you just be quiet and listen. The more you talk, the more those around you assume you care about yourself more than you do them.
The fastest – and perhaps most counter-intuitive way – to boost your leadership is to be quiet more often, and genuinely show interest in what others have to say.
Find out what motivates your team
“Self-centered leaders manipulate when they move people for personal benefit. Mature leaders motivate by moving people for mutual benefit” ~ John C. Maxwell
Forget the idea that you can motivate somebody – you can’t put motivation into somebody – they have to do it for themselves. But you can inspire them. And to inspire them, you have to know what motivates them.
This means getting to know them better. Asking questions about their aspirations and goals. Try “if you won the lottery tomorrow, how would you spend your time?” or “if you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you tackle this year?”
When you get to know your team better, you will find that inspiring them to do their best work is a heck of a lot easier.
Delegate more, do less
“The way you delegate is that first you have to hire people that you really have confidence in. You won’t truly let those people feel a sense of autonomy if you don’t have confidence in them” ~ Robert Pozen
For many leaders, the skills and talents that saw them promoted are actually the responsibility of the people they manage. Marshall Goldsmith elaborates on this in some detail in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There*. Often, these tasks and responsibilities are some of your favourite things to do! But if you continue to do them your team will start to believe you don’t trust them, and your manager will think you can’t step up to your new role… neither of which is a good outcome.
So let your team do their jobs, delegate those tasks you’d like to hang on to, and focus on understanding what it is you can do that no-one else can do. This is what you should be doing.
Specify results, not tasks
“Micromanagement is the destroyer of momentum” ~ Miles Anthony Smith
Have you ever found yourself bemoaning your team’s lack of initiative? Wishing you had more ‘self-starters’? Chances are this is an indication that you are delegating tasks, rather than results. Also known as micro-managing.
In reality, it doesn’t matter whether the ‘thing’ gets done the way you’d do it. What matters is that it gets done. So get clear about the result you want, and set that as the outcome. Don’t give your team the steps along the journey, just show them the destination.
Be a guide, not a GPS.
Ask more, answer less
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers” ~ Tony Robbins
In a previous article, I talked about how powerful questions are. Your team will expect you to have answers, and they will come and ask you for them. Resist the urge to answer – ask a question instead.
Leadership is not about having the best answers. It’s about having the best questions.
Reflect on your impact
“The best vision is insight” ~ Malcolm Forbes
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to be mindful of your impact on others.
Everyone has an impact on the people around them – consciously or unconsciously. As a leader, you additionally carry positional power, which magnifies your impact. So make sure it’s something you want to magnify.
Over the long run, you can strengthen this skill through meditation, but right now? Just schedule time to pause and reflect on a daily basis. Perhaps you could journal about your day. Take a brief walk around the block. Whatever it is, purposefully think about how you might have impacted other people today, and ensure there is alignment between how you’d like to impact others – and how you actually impact others.
“You can’t lead others if you cannot lead yourself” ~ Rebecca Elvy
This is vital. Your team need you to be rested, revived and ready for whatever the day is going to throw your way. In a recent article I talked about how essential self-leadership is, by laying it out as a number of things you should do more of (exercise, sleep, great nutrition) and less of. While this isn’t one-size-fits-all, everyone needs to find some level of healthy balance between work, family and play.
Give feedback, often
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve” ~ Bill Gates
Think of feedback like a gift that you can give as often as you like. Find multiple opportunities everyday to express gratitude. For a smile. For a job well done. But also ensure you provide constructive feedback in real-time when something hasn’t gone the way you needed it to.
Furthermore, be gracious in receiving feedback. It is a rare and valuable gift.
Read more books
Curiosity is a valuable leadership trait, and what better way to find out more about the world than to read. Read about leadership, but also, read about science, and the arts, read fiction, read poetry. Read purposefully, and read aimlessly.
But whatever you do, read.
Communicate more. And more.
In a stunning display of contradiction, having suggested you talk less, I will also recommend you communicate more.
The difference being that talking is about you… communicating is about them. It is your job to ensure that your team understands the mission, and their role within that. To do this, you need to communicate often, and in multiple different ways. Tell stories. Share data. Email. Present. Chat. Ask questions.
When people start telling you “I know this already, why are you telling me again” you know you’ve communicated enough.
* Amazon Associate Link
I want to help you to lead. Not from a position of power, but from exactly where you are now.
So I’m writing a book specifically for you. It’ll be out early next year (28 February 2018 to be precise).
If you’d like to know more, please sign up for my newsletter (I don’t spam, just a weekly newsletter) where I’ll keep you up to date on progress, test some ideas, and even share a preview or two as we get closer to launch-day.
Let’s do this!