Leadership is about setting direction and managing change. Leaders determine the goal that needs to be achieved (i.e., setting direction) and navigate the path to get there, defining ways to overcome any obstacles that spring up along the way (i.e., managing change). Set direction and manage change, that's really all there is to it.
Leadership gurus like to complicate matters. However, if you've ever read this column, you know that I like to keep it real. The overarching theme of most of my articles is something that I preach to my kids: Don't talk about it, just be about it. That said, let me share some ideas for how you can stop talking about leadership and start being a leader.
Here are five ideas to help you become the leader that you want to become:
1. Be honest.
Nothing kills a leader quicker than a reputation for being untrustworthy. Conversely, if you are unwaveringly honest all the time, you won't run that risk.
Consider Richard Branson for a moment. He is widely recognized as an inspiring leader that consistently "walks the talk" and takes full responsibility for his decisions--the good, and the not-so-good. Anyone remember Virgin Digital? It was supposed to overtake iTunes. It didn't. But Branson took full responsibility for his company's foray into the space.
2. Talk straight.
Keep your communications simple and to the point. Convoluted messaging just leads to confusion and misunderstanding. Talk straight and your people will know exactly what you mean.
Think of the frustration that most Americans feel when listening to our political leaders. The doublespeak, so common in political circles, is so bad that a recent poll conducted by Pew Research Center suggests that only 3 percent of Americans say that they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right "just about always."
Don't be the kind of leader who prefers rhetoric to simply stating the facts.
3. Be real.
Would you follow someone who is disingenuous? I wouldn't!
Steven Jobs was seen as brash and conceited. But his people adored working for him. They knew that they were always going to get Steve being Steve. It was reliable and true.
So be yourself. You being you should be enough to inspire others to follow your lead.
4. Be decisive.
People want decisiveness in their leaders. Sure, take some time to gather insight and review the facts--then make the call. Your business will suffer if you delay.
In 1972, for example, Ford announced that all of its new cars would run on radials. Firestone, which sat atop the U.S. market at that time, didn't have a radial tire when Ford made their announcement. Seeing the rise in radial tires' popularity in Europe in the 1960s, Firestone was still contemplating whether they should make the necessary investment in this new kind of tire manufacturing. It was then that French company Michelin entered the U.S. market with their radial tires, and began to dominate the world market as a result.
Don't let analysis paralysis keep you from making the call.
5. Be in it.
The best leaders work right alongside the people they're leading.
Famously, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has an undeniable work ethic, one that his people can only aspire to achieve. There are countless stories of him working so long and hard that he has to crawl into a corner somewhere in Tesla's facility to catch a nap. He sets the example for his team.
Don't be above doing the work. Be right in it with your people, and they will bust through brick walls for you.
To close, there's no need to overthink leadership. It's simple: set direction; manage change. That's it. So stop talking about leadership and start being an exceptional leader.