For those of us who have led teams for a while and have learned effective leadership through experience or training (or both), we likely still recall our first leadership role and some of the challenges associated with becoming effective leaders. The first time leading others can be challenging simply because we are not necessarily equipped with the knowledge and skills to be effective, especially if our entire career up to that point may have been built on roles as individual contributors.
That first promotion to leading others is usually the result of having demonstrated strong competencies for the work, the ability to influence others and the desire to move into a leadership position. The desire to take on leadership and knowing what to focus on are keys to being an effective leader. To be clear, becoming a leader should not be just about the title or the pay, it must be about the desire to influence and create outcomes through others and learning what it takes to make that happen.
- Ensure you really want to be a leader: Before accepting a leadership position you need to understand that it is no longer about you and what you want to focus on; it’s about the team and their success. After all, the team’s success IS your success. Leadership is not something you do in addition to the job; it is your job.
- See yourself as a leader, not a manager: Leading and managing are 2 different things. Managing is about processes and things, while leadership is about relationships and outcomes. Giving directions or telling people what to do may be easy and seem like the fastest path to results. However, the risk is the team becomes reliant on you for the answers, or fearful of taking action on their own and you are not growing them or increasing their capacity. You also miss the opportunity create an engaged team whose ideas are valued and which owns ideas, goals and results.
- Make yourself available: As a leader of others, you may still have some of your own work to do. However, it also means that you often have to set aside your work and make time for your team. Prioritizing your calendar and setting aside time to work collaboratively with your direct reports is imperative. The majority of your time should be focused on them, their needs and their success.
- Focus on the team’s development & growth: The only way you can grow is by growing your team. It may sound counter intuitive, but if you increase the team’s capacity by developing their ability to think, take action and deliver results through a sense of ownership, your ability to delegate is enhanced. That means they are growing. From there you can turn your attention to taking on more or different things through having increased your own capacity. Then you are likely now beginning to reach up into that next level and demonstrating how you can operate effectively at that next level or in some expanded way.
- Develop your leadership skills: After having decided to lead, making yourself available and focusing on others, your real effectiveness is determined by “how” you go about leading. Effective goal setting, coaching for performance, creating accountability for results, providing meaningful feedback and operating with transparency and integrity are a few key attributes that can be honed and developed for your success. Read voraciously and attend a leadership development program. It will benefit you for the long-term.
Article by Tom Cox.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.