(And it’s the thing they rarely teach in school.)
So, what are your problems? Let’s take a look…
-Finding honest and high integrity employees?
-Cash or resource problems?
-Marketing and customer loyalty problems?
-Difficulty handling uncertainly or change?
-Finding the right staff?
Take a moment to think about this and write down all of your business problems. Chances are, it will take you all of sixty seconds to make some notes.
Please do this now.
There is one body of knowledge that can solve all of these problems. And if you give me until the end of this article, I will explain how and why. And more so, your next steps.
First, I know it reads like I have some sort of magical cure; perhaps a weekend workshop or a wonder drug, to solve all of your ills. Maybe I am selling you the next Gee Whiz Business Book. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but stay with me because there is a word for all that ails your business and your life.
It’s called Leadership.
Or more likely, lack thereof.
Leadership will cure all of your business issues. And any problem in your business that you may be experiencing is caused by a lack of LEADERSHIP or a lack of the proper LEADERSHIP TRAINING.
And yes, it’s so important that I have to capitalize it.
So the solution is quite simple, although not easy:
(And it’s hardly, if ever taught at business schools, even if your staff is chock full of Wharton MBA’s.)
The solution calls for you to develop yourself and your team in Leadership.
Trainers call it Leadership Development. It’s actually been around for thousands of years, as the Bible as well as the ancient philosophers, from Seneca to Confucius have written volumes on it, and attest to its central role in creating a more fulfilling business life. And over the past century the discipline and strategy for training folks in leadership development is deep and wide and has been backed up by research from Harvard on down.
The good news is that leadership can be trained and learned. Also, Leadership is not synonymous with charisma or extroversion. Great Leaders can be quiet, thoughtful people. Leadership doesn’t only exist at the top, or only for the select few either. Abe Lincoln and Steve Jobs were exemplary leaders, but great leadership exists on every high school baseball team or church fundraiser. There are folks who are Leaders all around you. Or, who have the capacity to become great once you arm them with the right tools and skills.
I want to start by explaining some of the facets of Leadership. Later, you will take a short assessment that will gauge your strengths and weaknesses insofar as Leadership is concerned.
Let’s Define Business Leadership
When you begin the road to developing leadership skills that will transform your business life, and probably your personal life, your stress level, and the happiness and fulfillment you currently experience, will go up. And when you commit to developing leaders within your organization, the markers of success and fulfillment will amplify even more.
So let’s take a look at why I think lack of leadership is the cause behind most, if not all, of your business challenges.
A leader is someone who establishes a clear vision, then provides the proper information, knowledge and methods to manifest that vision, and then proactively facilitates and balances the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.
Am I missing something? Possibly, but I think I’ve covered most of what is needed in a leader.
Whatever the problems are in a company, the bottom line is that if you or someone on your team takes this definition to heart, and lives it, then the solutions will sooner or later become manifest.
You see, a true leader is someone who remains PROACTIVE and takes personal responsibility for where they are, right now. Unfortunately, most organizations are full of REACTIVE people who pass the buck, are irresponsible, and will do whatever it takes not to make a difference. A TRUE LEADER is different.
And you need to fill your company with these types of leaders. Starting with you.
By the way, leadership is different from Management, which is something they teach at MBA programs. I’ve taught for over eight years at two different business schools. And we teach the intricacies of management, whether that’s finance, operations, HR, marketing, or what have you, really well. But management is only one aspect of leadership.
Management certainly helps in providing the proper information, knowledge and methods to manifest that vision.
But Leadership is much much more.
Let’s break it down.
“A leader establishes a clear vision”
A leader helps create an aspirational vision. This may be called branding or clarity, but a leader helps direct him or herself and those around to a clear future course of action. A leader is motivational.
By creating a compelling vision, a leader inspires others to action for that specific vision. A leader draws the right people to a project – the ones who believe in that vision as well. A clear vision is the absolute minimum you need to ensure that you have the right people in place, and that you know where you’re going.
“then provides the proper information, knowledge and methods to manifest that vision,”
A leader wouldn’t cut corners, or do things half way. If someone is truly a leader, or aspires to be one, they will find the best possible solution to manifest a vision. You already know what a “Leader” is without me even needing to define it. Don’t you? In your gut, you know what a great leadership team will do to transform your business.
You don’t need to worry about micromanaging leaders. They are in it to win it. They want to thrive and make a difference. They can work out in front, using compelling communications skills to win over new accounts, and stay up late traveling to meet difficult clients. They can also worry as much as you do, and not rest until that quarterly spreadsheet looks perfect. Just the way you would want it to look.
Trust, Communication and Emotional Intelligence
So this leads to the final facet of our leadership definition:
“and then facilitates and balances the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.”
You can TRUST leaders to work for the greater good. They will understand that there are different viewpoints and that sometimes even opposing viewpoints are both correct. They will work towards the vision, and bring people into a shared outcome.
Leaders are selfless, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t in it only for others. We aren’t talking about Good Samaritans or saints here. They want what’s best for them AND what’s best for everyone else. They create the ‘win-win’ situations we all strive for.
They facilitate these wins by either having an innate ability to create trust (which is rare), or they have learned that they have to communicate clearly and effectively to show everyone around them that they can be trusted.
To do that, they have developed their EQ – Emotional Intelligence, which not only helps them manage their negative emotions, but helps them recognize negative emotional states in others. This signals to them to speak effectively and persuasively to people experiencing a broad range of emotional states.
So to tie it all together, leadership stands on three pillars:
- Emotional Intelligence
These three pillars can be taught, practiced and developed to a high degree at any phase of life. And that’s great news!
So now take a look at your list of business challenges. Chances are, there isn’t one there that can’t be overcome when leaders work towards a solution.
The solution is simple.
But it’s not easy.
You can’t transform yourself, your team, or your company into a high performing leadership machine by wishing it so.
Think of it like creating a company team to run a marathon as a fundraiser for a good cause. How much practice, learning and training would your company need so everyone finishes the marathon?
How many months of work would that take? Twelve? Eighteen? More?
Would you commit to individual as well as group training, on a regular basis to make it happen? Sure you would. Without it, you would fail.
And before you would begin, you would find out who knows what and what sort of resources they bring to the table to help achieve this goal.
Same for leadership.
It takes work and honest introspection on what skills and traits you are currently lacking. From there, you can start building a Leadership Development Platform to improve your skills and start thriving and succeeding.
As promised, below is an assessment/ list of questions to ponder for you or anyone on your team. It should reveal some of your leadership blind-spots. It’s a quick assessment and should highlight where you need training and practice.
These are either/or questions. Please choose.
- (a) Do you prefer to concentrate on a task to get it done , or
(b) Do you often question whether it’s the right task?
- (a) Do you typically form your own opinion, then listen to others, or
(b) Is it important to first carefully listen to others and then choose the opinion you believe in?
- (a) Do you love to take risks, or
(b) Do you believe you need to minimize risks?
- (a) Do you find yourself impatient for progress, or
(b) Do you like to make steady consistent progress towards your goals?
- (a) Do you put tasks before people, or
(b) People before tasks?
- (a) Do you often worry about what you haven’t achieved, or
(b) Instead, take pride in what you’ve already accomplished?
- (a) Do you prefer to keep your excitement about a task to yourself, or
(b) Share your excitement about a task with others?
- (a) What’s better, to create an adventure, or
(b) Create a plan you can control?
- (a) Do you prefer to keep your points of view to yourself, or
(b) Do you prefer to spend time persuading people to take your point of view?
- (a) Do you often surprise people, or
(b) Is that a rare thing?
The “correct” answers typify leadership while the “incorrect” answers reveal more of a management style. While it is important to have great managers, since this article is about leadership, we will focus on that.
The answers are: 1b, 2a, 3a, 4a, 5b, 6a, 7b, 8a, 9b, 10a.
think about yourself, but even more, think about the kinds of people in your firm or on your team:
- Leaders tend to question whether something is the right task. Managers concentrate on getting things done. Ask yourself, what sort of people are in your company, folks who use their mind and creativity to make things better, or a bunch of ‘Yes Men’? Are you certain that all of the directives from you are the best course of action? If yes, no problem, hire a bunch of effective managers. But wouldn’t it be better to have a few good leaders who think before they act?
- Leaders have strong opinions. But they also know how to listen. Being able to form your own opinion doesn’t mean that a leader will question everything and not make progress. But it does mean that a leader will take the time to think something through before reactively and mindlessly going to you or someone else to tell them what to think.
- Leaders take risks. They are willing to stick their neck out to do the right thing, or bring something up in a meeting that may not be the most popular perspective, but may still be important. They will take a risk to make things better.
- Leaders are typically very impatient. They want results NOW. They will help you hack the system to get results faster. Steady progress is for old-timey factories in 19th Century England. Leaders will therefore think creatively to find solutions that speed up your success. They want it as much as you do.
- Leaders know they can’t do it alone. They build relationships. They know that two heads are better than one. Great leaders have active networks they activate and work with to test the validity of their thinking. They reach out to create bonds and know that it’s not what you know but who know that’s a bit more important.
- Leaders worry about what they haven’t achieved. While they may seem proud, they tend to focus on the “next thing” and achievement. They typically can’t rest on their laurels.
- Leaders get excited and want to share that excitement with the world. They are motivational. They are fun to have on a team. They bring the energy up in their department or company.
- Leaders want to create adventure. It’s not just a job for them. They prefer to combine work and play because they would love to put their whole heart into a job. They are mission-driven.
- Leaders are persuasive and will tactfully spend time persuading people. This doesn’t mean that they are extroverts who need to be the center of attention. They may do it through reports and thoughtful memos and white papers. But they have ideas about how to improve things.
- Leaders surprise people. They are constantly looking for ways to innovate. They embrace change. And if anything, our world is constantly changing and surprising us. Wouldn’t it be better to be surrounded by folks who embrace the world for how it is and can roll with the punches?
Score 9/10 out of 10 – You are very comfortable with leadership and only need to train yourself in one or less aspects of leadership to become the total package.
Score 7/8 out of 10 – You understand that leadership is important and are working to raise your abilities, but you need fine tuning in some areas.
Score 6 or less out of 10 – You prefer to manage rather than lead. You probably look to others for leadership in most cases and prefer to make progress and work hard to stay on track. Have you ever asked yourself “What is leadership?” or “How can I lead people?”
For some folks, this little assessment is a wake-up call of sorts that helps them recognize one or more deficiencies in themselves or their team.
This is also a good guide for recruitment and staffing. As in, do you really test for leadership or look for these types of leadership skills when hiring? Or do you look for “management material” and give points for candidates who have had supervisory experience irregardless of whether they were successful leaders or not.
So what are the next steps?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on leadership to help you create an action plan to take your leadership abilities to the next level.
But if you can’t wait, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my office – 786.440.7486 to talk shop and find out about my Leadership Development Boot Camp, 1:1 Executive Coaching, or to help further assess the abilities of your team.