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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Over the course of my life (both personally and professionally), I’ve worked with many leaders of differing personalities, characters and behaviors. I’ve learned as much (or more) about what not to do as I have about what to do, especially in times of crisis.
There are those, who’re reactive in times of crisis, and there are those, who’re proactive. If you research the definition of proactive, you’ll find the following:
An act that one consciously wills and that may be characterized by physical or mental activity: as in a crisis that demands action instead of debate; as in action motivated by habitual or usual acts; as in responsible action.
If you were to study the substance of a leader you consider as good or better in crisis than most, I’m confident you’d find someone with a backstory that would support the kind of leader they appear to be. The data actually supports such a perspective, meaning there’s a link between the behaviors of a leader in crisis that are much different than the norm.
Speaking for myself, I’ve been in a position of responsibility (it seems) for my entire life. The only and oldest boy in a family of 6; raised in a leadership position in the church from my early teens; being a multi-sport athlete gravitating towards a team leadership role; working for the largest company on the planet in a Senior Leadership position for just under 30 years; wears me out thinking and writing about it now.
In short, I think I can speak with some credibility on the 5 most common problems I’ve seen with those, who’ve struggled leading in crisis.
- A lack of self-awareness: There are many leaders on a daily basis, who do not see themselves as others see them. This is most evident in an organizational culture that doesn’t value consistent communication coupled with healthy disagreement or confrontation. When subordinates can’t speak what they think and feel, they’re usually working for an autocratic leader, who doesn’t require, value or acknowledge diversity of thought. This type of leadership never does well in a crisis.
- A lack of situational awareness: There are many leaders, who react to crisis by doing their best to avoid it. This kind of behavior motivates a less than desired and timely response. It also creates a culture of under-estimating not only the seriousness of a crisis, but an element of doubt among subordinates that makes their reaction to a crisis unpredictable- the very last thing that a leader in crisis doesn’t need.
- A lack of consistent communication: It’s amazing how many leaders I’ve seen over the years respond to a crisis by defaulting to protocols. This kind of response is characteristic of leaders, who have a difficult time communicating consistently via any medium and especially in crisis. If someone struggles to articulate themselves verbally, then it’s almost a certainty they can’t do so in written or any other form of communication. Defaulting to a protocol and just repeating it over and over doesn’t give anyone a necessary degree of confidence and stability.
- A lack of accurate data to inform decision-making: I’ve mentioned often that I’m a data freak. One of my top 5 strengths (as highlighted by Strengthsfinder 2.0), is Input, meaning that I have to have enough data to inform my decision-making. It’s surprising how many leaders will take the word of those closest to them or within their own circle of authority (especially in crisis), without doing their own research or fact-checking. In short, you have to do the homework.
- A lack of strategic or adaptive planning expertise: I was taught a long time ago good times and profits (especially over an extended period of time, can mask a lot of deficiencies and dysfunctions. One of the first to gather dust is the planning process. I work with a lot of organizations and their lack of planning is one of the top 3 deficiencies I encounter over and over.
We’re in a crisis now! I still remember how surreal things were for a long period of time after 9/11. I thought that might be the significant crisis of my lifetime. Now, here we are with COVID-19. It’s rippling the globe and affecting all of us in ways we’d probably never imagined.
Rather than spend time criticizing the leaders of our government (which most of the media is doing on a daily basis), I’m spending my time in the space I have influence over, looking for any gaps in leadership that I can fill. Whether it be my community, my client base, my family, my church; whatever it may be.
I’ll look by being aware of both myself and the situation, communicating consistently with all of my platforms, doing my homework and providing accurate data and information, and planning how to adapt and respond in real time.
Truth be told, that’s how we can all lead in crisis!
Each of us has a definition of success. We may not be able to articulate it or write it down, but we’re always trying to succeed at something. That something, whatever it is, drives our thoughts, feelings and actions.
We’re constantly focused on what we want to accomplish, whether we realize it or not. Our concept of success has been developed and conditioned over the years by the media, family upbringing, peers and various life experiences. The net effect can be either positive or negative. So, take a moment to reflect on these questions:
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- How will we know if we’ve succeeded once we get wherever there is?
- Can we ever get there, or is it all just a process?
The net result of our definition of success will have a direct correlation to our overall Personal Leadership Effectiveness. The reality is that most of us are motivated to achieve success. However, we need to be sure we define what that success is or someone else will do it for us.
How are you defining success?
Is it power? There are countless successful people with enormous power, and yet they suffer from failed relationships and ruined reputations. The common philosophy is that if you’re going to succeed professionally, then you have to forfeit success in other areas of life, which (in my view) is nonsense.
Is it prosperity? Possessing things and having money aren’t wrong. However, when we become preoccupied with those things, we begin to miss our true purpose or reason for being here.
Is it position? Some believe that position defines success. There have been many notable people who achieved influential positions in business, government, faith-based institutions, politics and entertainment; whose lifestyles were later exposed for doing things that were not considered appropriate.
Is it prestige? Being known and recognized is a heady feeling. Many people with prestige can tell you that it can be very fleeting. How many actors, sports celebrities and politicians have we seen over the years gain instant prestige and just as quickly fall into obscurity? Prestige certainly is no guarantee of success. In fact, those who are known and recognized often receive an equal or even greater amount of attention when they fall.
Is it pleasure? The rule of life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure our only business, said Aaron Burr. There are many people that make an idol out of pleasure. Building a life around self focused pleasure isn’t satisfying in the long run.
To be fair, these definitions of success don’t always result in personal devastation. In fact, they’re neither good nor bad in themselves. But their use or abuse absolutely determines the outcome of a person’s life. This post isn’t meant to discourage anyone from enjoying the rewards of their hard work. It’s meant as encouragement to leverage those rewards for the good of others and the individual.
The key questions here are:
- What is your concept of success?
- Have you deliberately developed one, or has yours evolved through the influence of others and the culture around you?
- Is your concept the right concept of success?
The importance of building success in all areas of life is key to elite leadership. It must be balanced, integrated success. It should be in harmony with who we are. If we succeed in work and yet fail in personal relationships, we haven’t succeeded. If we accomplish great things, but live miserably in the process, then we haven’t succeeded. Only a life rooted in real and and lasting values is successful.
There’s an emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and relational sides to our individual being. Beyond that, we have responsibilities in various areas: work, family, community, etc. Each of these areas has sub-responsibilities and they’re all interrelated. We can’t afford to succeed in finances, yet fail in relationships and call that success. We can’t achieve levels of excellence in our organizations, yet burn out physically and emotionally. We must be winning in all areas or our lives to be successful.
You’re probably thinking of the old cliche you can’t have it all.
Truth be told, we were meant to and can have it all. We just have to do it holistically!
HABITS are a funny thing. We reach for them mindlessly, setting our brains on autopilot and relaxing into the unconscious comfort of familiar routine. Not choice, buthabit rules theunreflecting herd,William Wordsworth said in the 19th century. In the ever–changing 21st century, even the word habit carries a negative connotation.
By going through a structured leadership development process, leaders can build the competencies necessary to create continual innovation and growth in their organizations.