There is certainly no shortage of information intended to help us improve our ability to lead. I just Googled “leadership” and 152,000,000 response returned in less than one second. Imagine if it took a whole minute. Talk about too much of a good thing. In our hyper busy, “no time to think about anything for more than three seconds world,” too much of a good thing is just another name for a bad thing.
Fortunately, it does not have to be that way. I have spent my entire career, first climbing the leadership ladder and now coaching others to do the same. And while I do not have all of the answers, I have enough of them to help you make a demonstrable improvement in your ability to lead. Starting right now. I have distilled them into five steps that you can begin to put in place as soon as you stop reading this article.
- Drop your ego. Or at least hold it in check. The myth of the “larger than life, hyper-charismatic, bodies on the bayonet, hard-charging” leader is exactly that, a myth. At least in the business world. Jim Collins in his breakthrough bestseller, Good To Great, thoroughly dispelled this fiction. he points to the most successful leaders being humble, focused and steadfast.
- Listen. It is quite difficult to lead others when you are unsure of their pain and pleasure points. The only way to find these out is to talk to people and really listen to what they have to say. Do not make the mistake of isolating yourself to a limited group of people, lest you run the risk of viewing the world through whatever lens they provide to you.
- Engage with all of the key stakeholders, especially your boss. Do not make the mistake of thinking that it is best to manage your boss from a distance. It is not. You are much better served to manage your key stakeholders from a position of familiarity and frequency. Make it your goal to never be surprised or to surprise others. Communicate regularly, openly and frequently with the people that work for you.
- Align your goals, actions and objectives with the critical strategic plans of the organization. Make sure that the things that you focus on each day make a difference to the mission of the organization. Especially ensure that you are aligned upward (with your boss) and downward (with those who work for you) on these difference making actions.
- Adapt your strategy, actions and priorities to the ever-changing dynamic of the workplace. You cannot afford to cling to yesterday’s plans if the environment is different today. Course correction is smart, especially given how easy it is for the winds of change to blow you off that course. This should come quite easily if you implement steps one through four.
You can implement the five steps starting right now. You do not need a development plan, an executive coach or a decree from on high. You just need to get started. Do it now. You have nothing to lose and a step change in your leadership to gain.