The core message of this series is that you lead by what you do. knowledge, attitude and passion aren’t enough without the right actions. Anyone can do leadership through intentional choices and actions that lift and guide those around them.
This is a real difference between true leadership and position or status. Consider:
An organization can give someone employees but a leader must earn followers.
A manager might have a staff. Leaders engage their teams.
An executive might have some ideas. Leaders implement their plans.
A director might spend a lot of time talking. Leaders convince others to follow.
The ability to influence, persuade, and win people is our third principle of leadership, and a critically important one. It starts with character. No one will follow you unless they trust you. So here’s what you do: be trustworthy. In big things and in small. Albert Einstein said that if someone can’t be trusted with little things, “they cannot be trusted with large ones either.” That means, day in and day out, delivering on your commitments and being straightforward, honest, authentic, and transparent. That’s how you build a reservoir of trust for when the time comes for the big “ask”. That’s how you establish character.
Competence is also key. Be proficient at what you do. Take it upon yourself to know your business inside and out. Exude competence. No one will follow “leaders” who don’t know what they’re doing.
Finally, you must connect. Connection stems from genuine concern for others. There are many ways to connect – common interests, similar background, etc. – but a sure fire way to connect with anyone is to express genuine concern. Care for those around you. There’s no substitute.
Know these things:
Leaders show character. Gracia Martore is CEO of Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and the largest newspaper company in the U.S. She’s one of the most powerful women in the business world. When asked about her leadership mantra, she has a short, simple answer, “Be direct and straightforward.” Honesty, authenticity, and transparency establish the character you need in order to lead.
Leaders exude competence. Competence is the minimum requirement for leadership. No one will follow you if it’s clear that don’t know what you’re doing. On the flipside, so many people are faking it these days that simple competence in your field can set you apart. As the singer Billy Joel said, “I’m merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.”
Leaders connect. Daniel Amos is CEO of AFLAC, the insurance giant. He stresses the importance of connecting with his team, “In business, you should treat your employees like they can vote. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get everybody to vote for you. But you kind of try to kiss the babies and shake the hands and tell ’em you appreciate ’em and would like them to support you.”
Do these things:
- Appreciate – Let others on your team know how much you appreciate them. Give them an “attaboy” when they’ve done a good job or just let them know how much you value having them on board. Practicing gratitude with those around you attests to character and creates connections.
- Motivate – Find out what motivates your team and act on it. What do they like best about their work? What are their goals? What gives their work meaning? Once you know what makes them tick, you’ll be able to wind the clock.
- Collaborate – Engage others in your group in the leadership process. Seek their input on decisions. Ask for their feedback. Make sure that their unsolicited suggestions are welcome. If you aren’t open to their ideas, they won’t be open to yours.
- Demonstrate – Show that you can get the job done, and that you will. Walk the talk. Put your money where your mouth is. Be prepared to do what you are asking your team to do. If you expect them to go the extra mile, they will want to see you walk it first.
(For more information about my book, You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere Can Make a Positive Difference, and free resources related to the book, click here.)