If you are a CEO, director or manager, or have the responsibility of overseeing the employees within your company or organization, how are your leadership skills? Do people respect you based on your accomplishments and your personality? Or, are those who follow doing so only out of blind fear, based on dictatorial mandates issued by forceful intimidation? Have you analyzed where you are going this year, or are you still waiting for a lightning bolt from Mount Olympus to inspire you to greatness? Leaders lead, but only because they are able to develop devotion from their followers. How that happens is up to you.
Leadership principles are the same, regardless if you are the head of a business, a church or synagogue, an organization or association, or your family. Knowing the right way to lead comes with experience, both good and bad, and with how you deal with these experiences. As well, wisdom to make the right choices is not gained overnight but rather through a lifetime process of developing insights from life’s path. This process can occur through the counsel of wise people, through knowledge gained from the study of great books and from individuals you have met, and through key insights into your personal relationships both spiritually and socially.
True leadership cannot be forced; it must be earned. Here are five leadership tips to focus on in 2012, courtesy of Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth Mike Myatt, author of Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual.
1. Family matters. If you’re struggling with the family balance thing, the advice is simple: Don’t attempt to balance your family—make them your priority. Don’t believe the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home. While it makes for a nice sound bite to console those with a guilty conscience, it’s a lie. If your business is growing, but your spouse is crying and your children are neglected, it’s time to do a reality check on your priorities. If your assistant respects you, but your spouse doesn’t, you have serious issues that need your immediate attention. If you would rather spend time with your online “friends” than with your children, it’s time to pull the ripcord on your internet connection. Here’s the cold hard truth: If you cheat your family to invest into your career, you and your loved ones will pay a very heavy price. If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish. Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.
2. White Space. While the mind of a leader may be most comfortable being oriented toward the future, he/she can only act in the here and now. The knowledge and skills required to master any endeavor only happens when you focus on what you’re currently doing. This is the definition of presence, and it is only when you operate in the present that real creativity, growth and innovation occur. The problem with being present is that many leaders confuse this with having to do everything themselves. Have you ever interacted with someone who deals with silence by jumping in and filling the conversational void? This same thing occurs with executives who attempt to fill every open slot on the calendar with activity—this is a huge mistake. Smart leaders don’t fill their calendars with useless activities; they strategically plan for white space allowing them to focus on highest and best use endeavors. Leading doesn’t always mean doing. In fact, most often times it means pulling back and creating white space so that others can do.
3. Listen. Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it. In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others. Recognize the value of listening to others and avoid being a train-wreck in the making.
4. Unlearn. One of the most profound and commonly overlooked aspects of learning is recognizing the necessity of unlearning. You have acquired knowledge, beliefs or positions that, but for the protection of your ego, would easily admit are outdated. The definition for a closed mind is someone unwilling to change their opinions. Smart leaders recognize it’s much more valuable to step across mental lines in the sand than to draw them. Here’s the thing: No one has all the answers, so why even attempt to pretend that you do? A person that never changes their mind is a static thinker who has sentenced his mind to a prison of mediocrity and wasted potential. The smartest people are the most willing to change their minds. They don’t want to be right, they want the right outcome — they want to learn, grow, develop and mature.
5. Engage. Leadership isn’t about you—it’s about those whom you lead and serve. There are few things as limiting and frustrating as disconnected leaders. Smart leaders spend their time starting or advancing conversations, not avoiding or ending them. The more you engage others, the better leader you’ll become. It’s nearly impossible to engender the type of confidence, trust and loyalty a leader must possess without being fully engaged. In person, over the phone, via email, through the social web, or even by sending a good old-fashioned thank you note—ENGAGE.
And a bonus No. 6:
Read. There are few things which impact your thought life more than what you read. The message today is a simple one: If you want to improve your station in life, as well as the lives around you, read more. The greatest leaders throughout history have been nothing short of relentless in their pursuit of knowledge. Michelangelo said it best when he uttered the words “Ancora Imparo” which when translated from the Italian means “I am still learning.” By the way, his first public use of this phrase was noted to have been on his 87th birthday. Are you still learning (and unlearning)?
Are you a leader? If not, learn to be one.
BY MARK ROBERTS