My mother always says that there is a leader in everyone. Though I like that thought in theory, until recently my perception was that most people behave like sheep. Leading for me has always come quite naturally. I've taken leadership training on several occasions and have lead big teams and membership organizations. I've spent much of my professional life mastering this stuff. Surely I'm an expert, right?
My 'aha' moment came when I realized how much judgement I was placing on other people's behavior. I saw sheep because that was my judgment. More than that I used that assumption to validate my own leadership. Addressing issues around judgement should be core curriculum for Leadership 101 yet it has never been mentioned in any leadership forum that I can remember. Leadership is a matter of perspective. Once I changed mine I found it in the most unlikely places. Leadership isn't always represented by the construct of the single person at the helm that so many of us subscribe to. After much soul searching and self-reflection, these are the 7 most important things that I've learned about Leadership:
1. Judgement has no place in leadership. Every person has a back story. Our own experiences and opportunities are contributors to our judgement about the experiences and opportunities of others. The problem with this is that these judgements create blind spots that are catalysts for ignoring the unique gifts in leadership that others can offer.
2. Leading is not about getting people to do what you want them to do. Managing people and process to a successful end is not leading. The successful end may be the outcome that you want but the how you do it is just as important as the what you do.
3. Leadership isn't a competition. Leading isn't about hogging the limelight or winning. To truly lead, you have to be able to follow. That means that others around you should be given the space to lead sometimes too.
4. Know when to step forward but more importantly when to step back. You don't have to know it all and sometimes, in some situations it’s a good idea to acknowledge that you don't. Leadership is releasing control and allowing the best outcome to unfold while asserting your willingness to be supportive.
5. Leadership is not about you. So many of us make leadership about us. However, the great ones demonstrate that though you the individual leader may be a beneficiary of a specific outcome, the purpose of the outcome should be about the benefit of the whole. People will naturally follow you when you operate from that paradigm. Show humility.
6. Don't just listen. Hear what people have to say. Take the time to listen to what people say but more importantly hear them. Really hear them. That means be quiet. Don't speak. If you're always talking you're missing a lot. Let others speak uninterrupted and behold the pearls of information they will share with you. Sometimes, silence really is golden.
7. Whatever you do - be decisive. The worst decision is indecision. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes but owning it is important. Leadership isn’t about perfection its about authenticity and integrity.