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Why is leadership important for everyone?

Leadership skills are not just for the elite, corporate or military.  Most of us are not running large change initiatives or government reforms.  But having leadership knowledge is necessary like understanding nutrition or hygiene–everyone should be practicing good leadership.    Everyone is a leader whether you are activity leading or not.  So why not, learn how to see your leadership opportunities and be a better leader?

Most people think you need to be in a role where you manage people in a business, Professional Sports,  the military or Politics to be a leader.  That could not be further from the truth.  Everyone is a leader.  Every day brings leadership challenges and opportunities.  Whether to friends, family, co-workers, or just people you encounter throughout your life–you always have the opportunity to lead.  The problem is most people do not realize they are in leadership position whenever they are interacting with another person.

Much has been written on the difference between Leadership and Management.  I think of it this way:

Leadership is doing the right thing.

Management is doing the thing right.

When you understand that leadership is about doing the right thing–then it follows that everyone is a leader and needs leadership skills.

It is easy to spot large failures in leadership and the cost to society.  The news has shown us failures in leadership at huge corporations like Enron fraudulently concealing losses, Wells Fargo fraudulently opening millions of accounts including over 500,000 credit cards, and Volkswagen cheating on over 400,000 vehicle emissions.   

Situations don’t need to be that big of a failure and you don’t need to be a Transformational Leader to get the right amount of leadership applied.  Societal norms rely on people understanding their roles and doing their jobs properly. From Police Officer to Parent; CEO to coaches in our community; for things to work properly, people are leading other people.

What about leadership successes?  Most are right in front of us.  The teacher in the neighbor school.  The High School Coach.  A local Pastor.  The volunteer at the community center.  Your local City Council member.  The parent next door. You.

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Behavior in our roles as parent, spouse, friend, family member and co-worker, influence and impact those around us. Personal leadership is far more impactful to everyday life than what distant corporations do.    Just because our personal situations seems easier to navigate than running an organization or team–does not mean it counts less; in fact it may count more–therefore everyone needs as good a leadership ability as any corporate leader or business owner.  

Leadership is personal

Leadership is a skill to be practiced everyday; a skill to be developed and improved over a lifetime.  Situations test our leadership mantle. Life brings us new opportunities to learn and grow every day.  The question is are you paying attention to those situations and learning from them? Do you have enough self-awareness to to seek feedback, observe and course correct?

Whether you know it or not, you have a leadership style.   Whether you hear about it or not, people notice your style and have formed an opinion about it.   In the end, people will gravitate towards your style or shy away from it.

Leadership is a skill you can learn and improve.   Once you understand leadership has different styles you can learn to use the best style in any given situation.   Once you develop a sense of self-awareness on your leadership style you can make the most of it and improve it as you go.effective-leadership-theories

Because leadership is personal I will share what I have learned and do.  First, I have learned to think about leadership as a reflection of myself.  It is not a pretend game.  Without getting philosophical I have come think about my personal leadership style as statement of my character mixed with my intentions. To be an effective leader I have to be true to who I am.  Over time, I have learned what works and does not work for me depending on the situation I’m in. I can reduce it to 5 concepts that I call the 5 I’s of my leadership style.   These are behaviors I keep in the front of my mind for me to be a good leader.

leadership-traits-png5 I’s of Leadership

Instruct:  A great leader is a good teacher.  They share ideas, experiences and impart wisdom.  Urging people to make their own contributions is an engaging way to develop relationships while encouraging ownership.  People need honest feedback. Opportunities to provide feedback are teachable moments.  When done well it builds people up; instead of tearing them down.   Affirm the person, correct the behavior.   The art of providing great feedback includes educating people about a given situation with a new perspective on the impact of the behavior followed by a brief discussion on the specific steps to improve or to correct the situation.

Recommended reading:  Any book on leadership by John Wooden.

Inspire:  Great leadership is about getting a positive response from others.  Inspiration helps people live up to their highest potential.  Think about the last time you were inspired to do something.   Those providers of inspiration were leading you by example to a new level of interest or excitement.  Everyone benefits when people are inspired to be their best or learn to contribute something new.  Great leaders inspire us to think bigger than ourselves, challenge us to a greater purpose and affirm us for our potential.  If you can see someone’s potential and help them visualize it; you have just inspired them.

Recommended reading:  The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Integrate:  Every thing we do is connected to someone or something.  People are built to be social.   Teams accomplish more than individuals.  Leaders bring people together for a higher calling and common purpose.  Within professional sports it is easy to see when team work propels the team forward or pulls it apart.  The ability to spot dysfunction,  call it out and bring people together is a leadership talent.   People do respond to clear expectations, well defined roles and responsibilities. In the presence of over indulged emotions and drama–typically–I have found some form of ambiguity in role definitions, missing expectations along with lack of trust and poor relationships is at the heart of the issue.

Recommended reading:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Innovate: Moving through life involves encounters with barriers, roadblocks, issues and problems. Innovation is about solving problems and not be satisfied with the status quo.  The best solutions involve a clear understanding of the problem coupled with an ability to envision a better way and holding people accountable to drive forward.   Today’s leading Entrepreneurs are obsessed with problem solving.  Visionaries will not rest until they find a new and better way to live life.   Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Uber, AirBnb, Tesla, PayPal, eBay even Nike, Google, Apple and Microsoft all started small with a purpose of solving a single problem.    Now we live in a world where ever industry is being disrupted with new ideas and business models.  The best leaders see a better tomorrow and are focused on getting people around them to share in that vision and help deliver it.

Recommended reading: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Integrity:  In my view true leadership is not about the leader.  It is about making the follower better, serving others and fulfilling a mission.   In our social media frenzy world it is easy to see how confusing it can be to separate out the egos, personalities from the behaviors.   To be an effective leader you need to be consistent.  To be consistent in all your interactions means being the same person in all the different roles you have and elements of your life.  Leaders care about serving others.  They give away the credit or share it; are humble, think of themselves as serving others and work to build ideas and people.

Recommended reading: Uncommon by Tony Dungy

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Learning is a life long process.  Sometimes it involves trial and error.  We learn the most from mistakes.  For some reason, we fear making mistakes in front of others so we hang back to avoid looking bad or looking like we think we should be in-charge.  We play it safe. Leading from the front means being vulnerable and mistakes are visible to others.   Most of the time leadership is about asking the right questions; not taking charge.

Failure is a part of life. It is not fatal.

It is never to late to re-invent yourself or improve.  We all have made mistakes and have something we can do better.  Failure is a part of life. It is not fatal.  We learn and we improve.  Be a role model worth following and your leadership will be impactful. 

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Be the leader you were born to be and make a difference

You do not need Authority or be In-Charge to be a Leader

I have lost count of the number of times people have said to me:  “How can I lead with authority?”.  Leadership is about influencing the desired outcomes and addressing the needs of the situation.  Command and control is required in the military because life’s are at stake and failure to follow an order can be catastrophic.  That is not how will live day to day.   Needing to be in charge to lead is old-school.  Often times leading with influence and getting work done through others is not just the only option, but the best one too.  

There is a lot of power in a question.  Asking the right question will often spark a discussion that will lead people in the right direction.

Situational Leadership

Modern leadership styles have evolved into outcomes, focused behaviors and situational leadership styles.  Situations are different so the leadership styles should adjusted to address the situation.  

Dr. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed the Situational Leadership Model below:

situational-leadership

The type of leadership will depend on the situation, as well as the competence and confidence level of the people involved. 

Great leaders are people Builders and Recruiters

While having well defined tasks are good for projects, having good relationships are important to leaders. Relationships with people are the currency of today’s best leaders.  These leaders are constantly reaching out to build and maintain their relationships.  They know that work is done by people, so keep the relationship healthy is a more valuable asset than authority or winning arguments. 

Coaching and mentoring people is often a preferred way to lead because people respond better to feedback this way.   People listen more without being defensive when being coached.   

Coaching shows a willingness to help others and put the organization and the team ahead of yourself.

Manager vs Coach vs Mentor

ManagerCoachMentor
SupervisingSupportingEncouraging
People work for youWorking with PeopleYou working for people
Delegating AssignmentsDefine and teachAssist and advise
AuthorityPartnershipRole Model
Formal meetingsSupportive ReationshipConfidant and trusted advisor
Monitoring and overseeingDeveloping, guiding and teachingInvesting, Inspire and encouraging

Everyone is a leader and can make a difference in whatever situation you are in.  You just need to know how to ask the right question or apply the right technique to bring people together for the common good.

Instruct

Inspire

Integration

Innovate

Integrity

These are cornerstones to leading with purpose every day.