Leadership is the willingness is interrupt the status quo. It's the courage to stop and say out loud that things could be better, that things have to be better. Leadership spans everything from setting the goal, to drafting the plan, to encouraging thoughtful contributions and shutting down fruitless exercises.
It's knowing your values so well that you can recognize them calling to you amidst a thousand noisy voices. It's starting a conversation that enthusiastically welcomes others' input. It's taking action in service to others. It's the skill to inspire those needing a push, and the confidence to free those who are ready to go. It's the willingness to thoughtfully and intentionally follow.
In a few words, leadership is clarity, vision, drive, inclusion, and action.
Leadership also is entirely situational. No person-no matter how skilled-is leading all of the time. It's a choice made in moments throughout the day. You only get better at leading by practicing.
Leadership skills get stronger when used. In a joint study done by McKinsey and The Conference Board, 90 percent of CEOs plan to, "...increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important human-capital issue their organizations face." CEOs are willing to make the investment in themselves and their teams because they know leadership skills can be developed and improved.
With that belief in mind, this "workout" includes 5 essential components of leadership that when practiced regularly will result in a stronger, better, and more capable you that is ready to take on any business challenge that comes your way.
- Make conscious choices: lead, follow, or watch from the stands. In the very next meeting on your calendar several issues will be raised. Some actions will be agreed to and assigned. And still, there will be a larger or more complicated issue that will go unmentioned or unresolved. This happens in every single meeting- you just have to train yourself to see them. Each of these bigger issues is an opportunity to consciously choose your role. Can you lead your organization out of this bigger problem? Or, is it best to watch this one play out? The important thing is that you choose.
- Listen closely for other people's perspectives. Are you able to hear someone's point of view without assessment or judgement? It's difficult for me and I've wondered in the past why I should bother. It gets easier, and opens up more productive conversations, if you can reserve judgement and action until after hearing someone else's point of view.
- Step up to solve today's problem today. People I believe and respect including Seth Godin say credentials don't matter as much as we previously believed. What matters instead are the results you can produce. There is so much important work to be done in our businesses and so much is going undone because the few in titled leadership roles couldn't possibly get to all of it.
- Get the feedback you need-not just what your boss or team is offering. As a leader, you need to know not only if you're hitting targets, but also whether your team is content under your leadership. There's only one way to find out-ask them to tell you how you're doing and if there's anything they wish they could change.
- Pick yourself to be on the team. Leaders create project teams and assume that everyone knows that they (the leaders) will fill a review and approval role. A more unique approach is to pick yourself for the team and make that clear upfront. State your role and how you'd like to work with everyone else. It's difficult to lead well if you don't consider yourself part of the group hashing through the tough challenges.
For an expanded description of these exercises, click here.
Leadership is grounded in a clear, unpolished view of how things are today combined with a clear, unapologetic vision for how they could be tomorrow. It's for big stuff and little stuff, and everything in between. Leadership is not an organizational title. No permission slip required. It's a self-given role and responsibility. Whether you call them problems, challenges or crises, there are knots to be untangled everywhere you look. It's your personal superpower. You can do with it what you choose. Or not. You can snag your daily opportunities or you can waste them. But you won't.