How Do Elite Leaders Stand Out from the Rest?

elite leadershipThe word elite (like many other words) has taken on negative connotations in recent years. When you manipulate our language and choice of words to align with a specific narrative, then over time, if they’re used in that context, they can evolve to mean other than their original definition.

If you review the definition of the word elite, you’ll find that it means to stand out from the rest, or best of class.  

I was mentored by one of the most elite leaders in history, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. I encountered him at the age of 16 and it didn’t occur until years later that he was teaching me lessons in leadership even then. One of his principles was to surround yourself with the very best people you can find. As a result, even at my young age, he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and invested in me personally for the next 35 years.

A simple definition of elite leadership can be hard to pin down, but I think we all know it when we see it. I’ve been studying and working with elite leaders from many sectors for years and it’s obvious when I meet them. They just get it!

But what is it, specifically, that defines an elite leader? And what makes them stand out from everyone else?

It starts with their mindset. Every elite leader I’ve met has a remarkable clarity on winning for the organization, for the team, and for themselves (in that order). Moreover, this clarity on winning doesn’t come at the cost of others losing. Instead, it’s a relentless focus and determination to achieve goals and see others realize their goals in the process. Their focus on winning is all about having integrity between their words and their actions and in their relationships with others. It manifests itself in moment-to-moment behaviors, choices and decisions that benefit all those around them rather than their own self-interests.

Elite leaders have the following consistent characteristics:

Listen. Sounds so cliche now, doesn’t it? If you’re paying attention, however, we’re seeing the skill set (yes, I said skill set) of listening becoming a lost art. Elite leaders understand that listening is an essential skill for getting things done, and they work hard at developing their listening abilities. If you’ve listened to any of my Podcasts or Leadership Broadcasts, I often refer to becoming prolific with profiling, body language translation and non-verbal communication, in order to keep improving my listening skills beyond what I hear, to what I also ‘hear’ with my eyes.

PauseInstead of making knee-jerk reactions, elite leaders pause enough to actually think before making decisions and taking action. They resist the tendency to jump at the first good idea or solution. Instead, they take the time to explore different alternatives before proceeding with a course of action. They understand that it always costs more to do it over than to get it right the first time, both with events and even more so with people.

ReflectElite leaders are self-aware and tune in to their own biases and blind spots. They understand how and where these can get in the way, and build in the practice of regularly analyzing and questioning them. They constantly update their thinking to stay on top of their game.

ExpandUnderstanding that tunnel vision is not conducive to winning, elite leaders actively seek the wisdom and advice of others, especially those with different backgrounds and points of view. They appreciate the value of having multiple perspectives. I’ve said for a long time that it’s an advantage to be open-minded, but not so much that your brain falls out. 🙂

ExploreElite leaders talk more about possibilities rather than about events that may never happen. They ask Why? rather than Why not?. They focus on what could be versus what might get in the way. Sam Walton taught me to always ask Why at least five times, because more than likely, you won’t get the answer the first four.

Self-correctWhen elite leaders make a mistake, they self-correct by acknowledging it, adjusting, and refocusing on winning. One of the most obvious gaps in leadership today is the unwillingness of our most visible leaders to admit they made a mistake.

Learn Continually. Elite leaders constantly work to hone their craft. No matter how much success they achieve, they’re driven to get better at what they do. They’re continually curious and motivated to keep learning in order to stay abreast of the current environment and equip themselves to pivot in real time as the situation requires.

Most of all, elite leaders are always focused on moving forward, which requires learning from the past without getting stuck there.

When things go wrong, they don’t point fingers or assign blame. Instead, they do it again to get it right, or they guide others to do it again and get it right. They work to make others successful, and strive to create an environment that supports everyone achieving their goals.

Truth be told, that kind of environment doesn’t seem to be in enough demand in today’s culture, does it?

Leadership Traits Post COVID-19?

Picture1A much higher level of Personal Leadership Effectiveness™ must be required. 

What is an RC Factor? It’s a resistance to change. COVID-19 hasn’t just changed the world but also changed the DNA of our workplace ecosystem in many ways.

Our leaders must change as well to lead effectively in this new era. If this pandemic experience has taught us anything, it’s that leadership matters. For many organizations facing decidedly uncertain futures, it may matter now more than ever as the country tries to emerge from forced hibernation and rebuild a broken economy.

Throughout this pandemic (and continuing now with recent events in Minneapolis), we’ve witnessed certain leadership traits and approaches that are questionable, with many having made the difference between life and death. Organizations will require leaders with higher levels of Character & Behavior traits if order is to be restored and a stressed and struggling workforce is to be revived. So, what kind of traits should we be looking for?

  1. In my view, the first is Candor. You don’t hear this term very often in discussions of leadership, but I feel it’s a critical component. Candor means honesty and truthfulness without ambiguity.  While honesty has always been an important leadership trait, another level of truthfulness is required, which is tell it like it is.  I’ve found that one of the best antidotes for a workplace climate of anxiety and cynicism is candor. People respond so much better to the known rather than the unknown, even if the news isn’t great. For my part, I’m so disappointed with leaders (especially in the political sector) that can’t open their mouths without misleading half-truths or irresponsible optimism, which only creates more stress and anxiety. The next day they’re back in the spotlight rationalizing or denying what they said the day before, consistently blaming anything else that will shift the focus from their dysfunctional leadership.
  2. Consistent fact-based, reliable communication. During this pandemic, there hasn’t been much that we could count on consistently for several weeks, really from anyone. In fact, the data and the information changes daily, again only creating more stress and anxiety.
  3. Empathy. Leaders often wear many hats and certainly as workers return to the workplace, leaders will become counselor in chief in many ways. This pandemic has touched so many in such profound ways that many workers will be essentially working while grieving. Leaders at all levels must have a natural sense about when a particular team member may need to be referred for counseling, take a break from a meeting, or just need some heartfelt words of encouragement. Leaders will need to tap into a keen level of awareness and sensitivity as they consider changes to long standing policies and procedures (especially in HR) to better fit their organization’s new normal. Tone deaf, insensitive responses or decisions can have tragic consequences with an organization’s understandably fragile psyche during this time.
  4. Adaptability. Weeks before the country began to shut down, most leaders couldn’t have imagined such a drastic widespread action. Faced with unprecedented uncertainty, leaders will need to avoid the temptation to stick with a decision. In an attempt to appear decisive, they must instead be willing to regularly review new data, information and feedback and change course if necessary. While businesses may resume operations based on a logical, clearly thought through plan, they’ll need to be mentally poised to pivot in real time irrespective of a formal policy or pre-COVID procedure. Any delay in the need to change course can have significant consequences for the viability of the business and the health of the workforce.
  5. Humility. Leaders are often expected to know it all and make perfect decisions, and the obvious truth is that they’re just as human and fallible as anyone else. In these uncharted waters, one of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is pretending they know more than they do, or making decisions relying only upon their instinct or previous experience. Whatever knowledge is required, leaders will need to be willing to rely on the expertise of others to make the best decisions for the broader organization. As a result, humility will be a huge asset. It takes a strong leader to respond to a difficult question with I don’t know, but I’ll find out, or step aside from the podium and allow an expert to field most of the questions.

Truth be told, as the pandemic continues to unfold, all of the above will be just what’s required in huge doses.

The Paradox of Leadership

PARADOX: A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

The primary paradox of leadership (and there are many) is to be consistently inconsistent.

You probably know that both of these are not the right approach; they’re two ends of a spectrum. On one end, a leader is being way too rigid in their approach, preventing others from being creative, innovative or having any ownership of their work. On the other side, a leader who is too flexible, can be taken advantage of and may not be respected by their team.

In a nutshell, this is the Leadership Paradox. Balancing when to be rigid and when to be flexible is one of the hardest things to learn for a leader. You have to decide what you’ll be consistent with vs where you’ll be flexible to circumstance, personality, and performance.

You can ill afford to be inconsistent with the following:

  1. Your values and those of your organization. The minute you compromise values, their meaning is lost. It’s the difference between people proudly looking at the values on the wall or laughing at them.
  2. How you model the way. As leader, you set the culture for your team. Nothing has a bigger impact on culture than the example you set. People may or may not listen to you, but they always watch your actions. Those who follow model the behaviors of those who lead. How you act says much more than what you say. When your actions reinforce what you say, you will be respected and your team will act as you do. When you fail to set the right example, they will see you as a hypocrite and you aren’t likely to see the results you hope.
    3) Investing in your people’s development. Your journey to leadership was about growing your self. As leader, the journey is now about growing others. It’s easy to get bogged down in process and profitability, while letting those responsible for both devolve and eventually go away. It’s also easy to put time in with your star players, while letting others with potential also lose interest and conviction. When you set a standard for others and then set a higher one for yourself, without realizing it, you’ve set expectations that others expect you to meet, especially with them.
  3. Having one on ones. No matter the experience level or tenure of someone on your team, you need to have one on ones with them. There’s a time to fix problems, give and receive feedback, talk about their career growth, coach them, and more. If you don’t set aside that time regularly to cover these topics in a one on one, you’re unlikely to talk about them at all. While each person’s one on one will be a bit different in style and topics covered, it’s essential that everyone on your team has them if you want your organization to be a good place to work, grow and develop.
  4. Holding people accountable.
    When there are little to no consequences for bad behavior or broken promises, not only will the undesired behavior continue, it will accelerate and spread. I’ve seen more leaders than I’d like attempt to improve their environment by either moving to a new location or bringing in a slew of new managers in hopes of ‘shaking things up.’ They learned very quickly that dysfunction loves new places and new faces.
    No one respects double standards, and your most challenging people will always be looking for where you set the bar. If you hold the bar high, they will perform well, but if you lose accountability, their performance will be the first to slip, and others will soon follow.

Being a leaders is knowing when to be rigidly flexible. The key is adaptation. You must scan the environment constantly and be ready to pivot in real time. 

You can afford to be inconsistent with the following:

  1. How you help people grow. While you need to consistently invest in the growth of your people, how you do it should vary person to person. Some people are hyper-aggressive and will want to advance quickly. They may need more hands on mentoring and be hungry for multiple ways to learn. Meanwhile, others may enjoy their current role and would like to go deeper in their existing skills. The best way to help them grow may be via the projects you assign or who you assign them to work with. There may be still others that aren’t hungry to grow at a given time. Sometimes it’s a lack of motivation or not knowing what their goals are. Other times, there can be personal reasons. It’s your job to know those reasons.
  2. How you motivate. Everyone on your team will not respond to the same efforts the same way. For example, introverts often want more time to consider an idea before discussing it privately, while extroverts have no problem giving immediate responses regardless of the setting. Trying to motivate everyone the same will product average results overall. One size does not fit all when it comes to leading people.
  3. Trust and oversight. Trust is earned. The better someone performs and the more they meet your standards, the more you can give them freedom in their work. If you’ve seen someone deliver repeatedly on a certain type of project, you can likely ease off on the number of check-ins before the completion date (though you should never stop them entirely).
  4. How hard to drive people. Some leaders are laid back and some are hard driving. Unfortunately, doing either all the time will negatively impact the long term performance of your team. Feeding a hummingbird with a firehose will produce the same result every time.
  5. Ownership & Control. You must trust your team and give them ownership of their work. You want to hold them accountable to the results you agreed upon, while being flexible on how they get there. The common fear that keeps most leaders from doing this is the fear of making mistakes. You must take risks with people if you want the best from them. Think of it like the waterline principle means that it’s ok to make a decision that might punch a hole in the boat as long as the hole is above the waterline so that it won’t potentially sink the ship. By recognizing which risks are safe to take alone and which are not, you can give your team more autonomy, while making failure safe. Both will help your team flourish and grow, while ensuring you avoid any catastrophic problems.

Truth be told, no one said leadership was ever easy. However, if you understand how to balance this leadership paradox, it sure makes everything overall much easier to accomplish.

Leadership Post COVID-19!

The reality of life Post-COVID-19 has not fully manifested itself, and its consequences for our businesses, organizations, economy, and society will play out over the rest of 2020 and beyond. Right now, we really need practical, values-driven, and focused leadership like never before. Going forward, Personal Leadership Effectiveness will be at a premium!WHAT'S NEXT?   

I’ve been putting forth on my YouTube Broadcast, my Podcast and here on my blog that leaders (even the most successful ones) must reinvent and change themselves or risk being left behind. No matter how effective you were yesterday, today and tomorrow are likely to make new and different demands. If you fail to reinvent and adapt, you and your organization will be left behind.

There’s no leadership playbook for what to do in the face of a 21st Century pandemic. We’re all facing threats to self, family, employees, customers, suppliers, business partners, governmental and financial systems, and potentially our social fabric. There are no silver-bullet solutions for what’s yet to come.

So, what should you do if you’re responsible for a team or an organization? 

  1. Educate yourself. If you haven’t before, the time is now, to embed a leadership trait of continuing learning. This means paying attention, keeping your head on a swivel, and lowering your RC Factor (resistance to change). It means not getting pulled into the drama that characterizes the media and then projecting that drama onto others. Recognize that things are changing on a daily or even hourly basis. Today’s realities are quite different than they were yesterday, and vastly different from just last week. Be flexible, be adaptive, and be willing to make difficult choices. Nobody has a crystal ball, but read up on the environmental implications for your your people and your organization so that you can make better decisions.
  2. The safety of everyone you’re responsible for is a priority. Ensure that you have clear business protocols and expectations in place and fine-tune them as necessary. Work-from-home is only the first step. What else needs to happen in your organization for people to feel safe, engaged, informed, and useful? Underscore that what matters most to is that your people feel physically and psychologically safe.
  3. Build a clear plan forward for your organization. I use this term quite often: Stay in the helicopter, which means think global and act local, sketching out plans that are as detailed as possible for the longer-term. Recognize that much will change, but at the same time be extremely focused on your game-plan week-by-week and even day-by-day. Things are changing at an incredible rate. Think strategically and adaptively, and be willing to pivot in real time with a sense of urgency.
  4. Leverage your team. You’re not in this alone and you shouldn’t act like it. I’ve said very often over the course of my career, diversity means tapping into the strengths of everyone on your team, not just a selected few. Bring your team together to ensure alignment on plans, priorities, and contingencies. Engage them in doing scenario-planning. Work with them to differentiate the truly important from the merely urgent and help them do the same with their teams. Ask them how they and their families feel, to help ensure everyone is tapping into your emotional intelligence to lead and manage in the right ways.
  5. Over-invest in communication. There can never be enough communication, not just now, but ever! You must communicate with credibility and optimism. Be realistic but be positive. With most people now working remotely, set up multiple and new ways to keep in touch. As a leader, pay attention to your communication style and tactics, being deliberate and as visible as you possible. Set the right type and frequency of communication protocols for your organization, which need to be consistent on a continuum. Be clear and specific with your messaging and focus on key themes. Help your people focus on what they can control, not upon what they can’t.
  6. Be authentic. Don’t forget why people have come to trust and follow you, and tap into your consistency to create calm and focus. In times of crisis people crave familiar. Now is not a good time to change your style. You don’t need to take a chance on being perceived as running for office. Don’t hide bad news. Be honest and if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say so. There are only three questions any leader really needs to know the answer to: What’s next? Why is it important? How do we allocate resources and people effectively? Other than that, carry on!
  7. Lead yourself. You’re a human being and you’re stressed like everyone else, probably in ways you may not even realize. Don’t let yourself get to the end of your rope. Take time to make sure you’re as prepared and focused as you can be. Stay balanced: get your exercise, eat properly, and make time for the people most important to you. Your family and friends need your attention and leadership as much as your employees and customers.

Every leader of every organization must balance the needs of and commitments to all stakeholders including customers, employees and their families, suppliers, and local communities. If nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis may bring out which leaders and organizations really know how to do this. Your employees will remember for a long time how they were treated during this crisis. Nothing drives employee loyalty and engagement more than knowing that their leader really cares about them as human beings.

Truth be told, as a leader you should treat this COVID-19 crisis as a defining moment for yourself and your organization. Step up and lead accordingly.

6 Leadership Disciplines If Your Organization Has Taken A Hit!

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1. Understand the 10-Year Business Cycle

First, it’s important to understand the concept of the 10-year business cycle. In this cycle, you’ll have two great years, six good years, and two terrible years that will potentially put you out of business. We’re experiencing the two terrible years right now. If you go back and do your homework, you’ll find that this cycle has held true to form for the last three decades.

The take-a-way here is that you should never be surprised by a downturn, and you must always be prepared for a hit to revenue. As in the current terrible year event, businesses are seeing 30, 40, 50, 100% of their revenue disappear literally overnight.

I’ve heard some pundits say we’ll never see this again in our lifetime. Other than that being a level of arrogance I don’t understand, if you’re surprised by the next one, shame on you. Whether it’s a recession, virus, 9/11, war, or who knows what, it’s coming. This is the third major crisis I’ve seen in my lifetime and I lost everything in one of them. It changed the way I live since in every respect. COVID-19 is going to do the same thing. It will change everything.

2. Shift Your Mindset.

You need to shift your thinking in two ways.

  • First, understand that you’re in survival mode and the first priority is save the organization. Among the biggest mistakes business owners and leaders make in tough times are trying to hang onto everything, not letting go of the past, and getting way too emotional. Every decision has to be for the greater good. Your business has a purpose and a vision that must lead your decisions. If there’s no organization at the end of all of this, then there’s no place for people to come back to and the mission and vision will not be accomplished.
  • Second, you must shift your mindset. I’m not a scientist, so I’m not going to teach you how the human brain works. However, you have to shift your brain’s primal fear-based, fight-or-flight mode (the amygdala) to critical thinking and solution mode (the frontal lobe). You must get out of being scared and move forward into solution mode.

Start by thinking through the worst-case scenario. Confirm that you can survive it. Put a plan in place that even if organization is going to lose significant revenue, you can still survive. Once your crisis plan is in place, share it with everyone involved and get to work.

You may even have to completely reinvent yourself in case the need for what you do, or the way you do it, has completely evaporated. You must now look at what you were originally created to do and pursue opportunities in that sweet spot. If you’re going to lose the kind of revenue I’m using as an example, then shifting your mindset is a mandate. It might mean layoffs, furloughs, expense cuts, etc, which means that if you’ve ever had to set your ego aside, now’s the time. Simply going back to the organizational structure that worked before may never work again.

4. Get Close to Your Customers & Clients.

Now’s the time to know your customers and clients even better than you know yourself. Make sure you know their every need and that you’re providing tremendous value. Make yourself irreplaceable, even if it’s simply being a counselor or trusted advisor. This will help your organization evolve, adapt and pivot quickly in real time to both your internal and external environments.

5. Manage Your Energy

It’s one thing to isolate yourself. It’s quite another to make sure you’re talking to a lot of people in all aspects of your life. Be a beacon of hope and light. Help them, listen to them. This ironically will lift your spirit and your energy. I’ve always felt that the answer to most anything is to serve others. You’d be surprised by the great ideas and insights that might come from shifting your mindset away from your own isolation. Don’t be sitting around watching the news and listening to pundits, who are incorrect the majority of the time. It will literally wear you out by sucking all of the energy out of you.

6. Stay Positive

If you’re sitting around complaining because you don’t agree with the decisions our country’s leaders are making right now, here’s the reality. Human beings are inherently incapable of being completely satisfied with anything, meaning we’re inherently negative. As the leader of an organization, your job is not to bemoan the current state, but to capitalize upon it. Whichever side of the aisle you reside with, you have to move forward and play the hand you’ve been dealt. Focus on what is within your control. If you really feel you can change something, then do it. But if not, complaining about it to friends, family, and co-workers isn’t going to save the organization. Be at your absolute best. You owe it to your people. People are looking for a strong leader in these times, and that needs to be you. As the leader, you must be a realistic optimist.

Above all, stay focused! Whatever else you do, stay focused!

Leader’s: What’s Getting Your Attention Pre vs Post COVID-19?

In the time it took me to outline this post, I checked email twice, requiring me to respond to four messages, none of which were urgent or critical. I checked text messages twice and responded to three of them, none of which were urgent or critical. I went down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos a couple of times, costing me about an hour of productivity.

In what should have been 20 minutes of work, I compulsively interrupted myself at least 6-7 times. What’s more, the cost of these interruptions goes way beyond the added amount of time to finish this post. They distracted my train of thought, reduced the quality of my writing, thus creating the need for more edits and revisions.

I’m confident none of us saw what we’re living through now coming. There’s a lot of data out there about how we humans react after periods of time in isolation. What I’ve noticed myself during my time is that the interruptions become more compulsive. It’s like you don’t know how to distract yourself anymore, especially if you’re not working on work, if you know what I mean. You have to go to great lengths to stop yourself from keeping the habitual distractions from happening and even to stop creating new ones. It feels like you’re in some kind of digital Twilight Zone, where the process of doing anything significant, important or even simple, seems fruitless and even pointless.

I’m very active on Social Media with two Blogs, two YouTube Channels, and a Podcast. I really enjoy the entire process. But, since the advent of COVID-19, I’ve been having to pay attention to my attention and focus on my focus. There’s simply too much down-time being forced upon us and if you’re not paying attention, it can motivate the creating of unhealthy habits and distractions that will most certainly bleed over into the working environment whenever things start opening.

These distractions aren’t just unproductive. They create more work than they replace.

For those in leadership positions regardless of profit, nonprofit, corporate, small business, etc., you have an amazing opportunity to reflect and re-examine what habits and distractions were diminishing your Personal Leadership Effectiveness before COVID-19 because you weren’t aware of them. If there were ever a time to raise your self-awareness to those habits and distractions, that time is now.

Our attention spans are dwindling. Anxiety and depression are on the rise. We’re becoming increasingly intolerant of people with opposing views, and less patient when the things don’t go our way, which is probably the way it feels to millions of folks right now. However, leaders can’t afford to feel that way, especially in public.

There are many fronts on which your attention is being assaulted. There’s a massive surplus of stuff to pay attention to. The more there is, the more difficult it is to choose what to focus on and stay focused.

So, think of what I’m suggesting as a Distraction Diet.

First, consciously limit the number of distractions you’re exposed to. In other words, consume less information.

Second, find highly reliable sources of information and then build your personal infrastructure (daily routine) around them. It’s not about quantity anymore. It’s about quality. We live in a world with infinite information and opportunity. We don’t grow by knowing or doing more. We grow by focusing on less and doing it better than the rest.

Third, assess yourself to determine what kind of leadership style you default to in a crisis. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know that? We all have subconscious habits we default to without even thinking that are either helping or diminishing our effectiveness. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which was which?

Personal Leadership Effectiveness is the skill of governing and leading oneself. How’s that working for you now during COVID-19?

Truth be told, the more important question is How will it work after you’re liberated?

Is It Time for A Correction?

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There’s never been a better time to reflect and re-examine everything. The kind of correction we’re going through right now has provided a major opportunity to ‘throw it all on the wall’, take a time-invested look at the landscape of our personal and professional lives, and decide how we want to change, transform or reinvent in every area of our lives.

Time For Reinvention?

To reinvent yourself means letting go of stuff that’s currently holding you back. It means letting go of toxic habits and routines that keep you from giving your life over to something or someone more important than yourself. It means acquiring the ability to govern and lead yourself.

To reinvent yourself means changing the direction of your life. It means making a new set of choices and forging a new path that expands opportunities and possibilities. However, to change your life, you must first begin by changing yourself, which requires you to go through a process of self-discovery.  It may involve finding new ways of thinking or of doing things. It might include, establishing new habits and routines that expand your options or help you to adapt to adversity and setbacks in more effective ways.

To reinvent yourself might also mean identifying a new set of goals and objectives, and drawing out a biblical and spiritual plan for achieving them. This will require building a new set of patterns and behaviors that are aligned with what you want to accomplish. 

However, To really reinvent yourself requires some sacrifice. You need to potentially give up things that you’ve been clinging to for many years. You’ll need to muster up the courage to do things that you normally don’t feel comfortable pursuing. This will also require a great deal of mental and emotional energy, commitment and focus. 

You’ll likely need to continuously challenge yourself and your perspective of reality. You’ll need to actively stretch your comfort zone and proactively push yourself in a brand new direction. You’ll be effectively build a better version of yourself. This will require a commitment to growth and development, doing things differently and pushing the limits of what you previously thought was possible.

Truth be told, this journey won’t be easy. You’ll require a great deal of support from your family and friends to get you through this period of change and transformation. It starts when you make a commitment to change how you work, live, and interact with the world around you. 

Truth be told, it all starts with you!

We’re All Being Looked to for Leadership!

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Right now, everyone’s looking for leadership somewhere. There are questions that leaders and aspiring leaders need to be asking themselves to determine if they’re either leading with authority and consistency, or if they’re lacking in some area that would make the difference between being the best or otherwise.  

Why Are There More Followers Than Leaders?

This has always been the case. Have you ever asked yourself why? 

I really believe that anyone is capable of becoming a leader. I also believe that not everyone is cut out for the role. That doesn’t mean they’re less capable of making an important contribution; it just means they bring a different set of skills to the table. It also doesn’t mean that anyone aspiring to a leadership role can’t learn how to do so.

There’s nothing wrong with being a follower because regardless of the role, nothing happens without people, period. However, there’s a balance to everything. The trick is knowing which role someone is best qualified to fill.

If you’re a leader, you should be asking the following questions to determine where you need to improve. If you’re a follower and aspire to a leadership position, here are some questions you might ask of yourself to determine if this is a role you want to fill.

  1. Can I control my emotions? The best leaders have emotional intelligence; they may feel things deeply but they’re emotionally strong and stay in charge of their feelings. Followers are more reactive with their emotions, while leaders are more responsive.
  2. Am I comfortable with the middle of the road? Successful leaders have strong convictions and are bold in their beliefs, while followers are less committed to ideals. Followers get out of the storm while leaders stand strong against it. It took me a long time to embrace this one because of an unrealistic desire to have everyone hold hands and sing the coke song together. Doesn’t work that way.
  3. Do you have a high RC Factor (resistance to change)? Leaders may be headstrong and determined, but they also know when to be flexible and agile. Followers are more inclined to stay on a set course come what may. Personally, I like to be rigidly flexible, if that makes sense.
  4. Are you risk adverse? By nature, followers are more cautious than bold. They take a lot of notes and move more slowly. Leaders combine big ideas with action and move into situations where both the payoff and the risk are substantial.
  5. Are you self-confident? Leaders tend to be decisive and self-assured with their eyes on the prize. Followers are more likely to see limits in their abilities and put more faith in the judgment of others.
  6. Are you results-oriented? Leaders like to have a definitive plan and a blueprint for getting results. Followers like to have clear instructions that allow them to focus more on their individual corner of the big picture.
  7. Are you focused and detail-oriented? Successful leaders are all about discipline, focus and getting things done. Followers are more comfortable with starting things, stopping, and picking them up again later.
  8. Are you an effective and consistent communicator? Leaders are often good speakers and patient listeners who enjoy bringing people together and motivating them. Followers tend to be more introspective and less communicative.
  9. Do you think more in the short-term than the long-term? Leaders are almost always characterized by a clear vision for the future and sharing that vision with others. Followers either focus on the moment or sign on to a leader’s vision.
  10. Are you more about the nuts and bolts or about the mission and vision? An important quality of a leader is to motivate and inspire others. For followers, that kind of thinking doesn’t come naturally.

In my experience, both leaders and followers can be equally driven by their desire to make a difference. These are not clear distinctions because most all of us have elements of some or all of these characteristics. One or the other may even come to the forefront depending on the situation. I’ve seen the most unlikely individuals come out of nowhere to become the best of the best. I’ve also seen others have leadership thrust upon them and rise to the surface, as well.

In short, you don’t have to be in charge to be influential, but it sure does help, especially in times of crisis like right now!