There are no secrets to becoming a great leader.
Early in your career, one way to stand out is to become recognized as someone who is consistently able to “do more with less”. Often, promotions into a management role, occur because you are great at getting things done. The more you do, the more valuable you are. It is basic and one of the best ways to be valuable to your company.
If you got promoted primarily because you have an outstanding ability to do and accomplish a lot, what does that teach you? Do more and accomplish more. Look at the conundrum; you are promoted into a management job, but your skills are primarily getting stuff done.
What do leaders do? At a high level: they lead others to successfully accomplish the goals and mission of the organization. But if you have never led others who are different than yourself, this can be incredibly hard. Others think differently and they have different motivations, character qualities (such as work ethic), and skill levels. How hard is it to lead others? It might be the most challenging part of the business. The complexity of leading others is huge.
To lead others successfully often requires leading them to someplace they would not have gone on their own. This is the essence of change leadership. The speed of change continues to accelerate and your ability to lead people through changes is dependent on how much influence you have with them.
Leaders with strong influence have a lot of trust & respect with their teams. This is not a secret, but it may be a mystery to you how great leaders earn high trust & respect.
Furthermore, the leader must “know thyself”; which means they know what they are thinking and feeling. And, they “manage thyself”; which means they minimize their bad habits from representing their leadership AND they adjust their style to meet the needs of other people. In addition, they are aware of others’ needs and desires which requires being outwardly focused. The foundation to leading a team is built like this:
- Leading Yourself = Self-Awareness + Style Adjustment + Intentional Habit Formation
- Leading Others = Purpose + Awareness of Others (esp. team dynamics)/Empathy + Interpersonal Skill
Very few people can do this well without significant growth and development. They must create new habits and skills too. Great leaders are not born, they are made. Effective leaders are great at learning, growing, and changing. To lead well, you need extraordinary habits.
The missing ingredient to great leadership is the consistent development of your ability.
Do you have a leadership development goal? How will you create new skills and habits that make you a better leader? Most people in leadership roles do not have an answer to these questions.
Moreover, if you do not know where to start, develop a plan. If you need help designing a plan, read my book BEST BOSS EVER! The 5 steps to rapidly develop yourself into the leader everyone wants to follow. I wrote the book to help those who want to know how to develop themselves into great leaders.
Leadership development is your responsibility. To “develop yourself” means to wisely use the resources from many different sources.
- Start by learning how you are currently perceived as a leader. It is best to use a 360-degree assessment because you have a poor chance to know how others perceive you as a leader. But if you want to start with a self-assessment, here’s a simple but effective one from Zenger Folkman: https://zengerfolkman.com/8-minute-assessment/
- Create a plan to develop your strengths or to fix a blind spot. To do this well, you will need to know what your organization needs you to do well in your role, what you have the most passion to do, and what you are pretty good at already (it’s easier to develop a strength than fix a weakness).
- Every week make a plan to ‘practice’ your leadership habits and actions. Set aside time to reflect on your week’s practice and look for the learnings that happened as you practice. Notice practice is just that. Practice provides learning opportunities if you are looking for them, but you must intentionally look for them.
- Every month do a bigger assessment of your progress. Quantify your progress and your effort. Look for the big changes you made, the habits that worked, and the habits that got in the way. Learn to learn – what do you need to do differently and how can you be a more effective leader with your strengths; what does your team need you to do differently?
The missing ingredient to great leadership is to be continually developing yourself, to never stop learning, growing, and changing.