How To Build A Culture of Leadership
The only test of leadership is that somebody follows.
Robert K. Greenleaf
I was 19 years old, and full of P & V and in basic training for the Canadian military in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. One day we were on our 7-mile walk/run in full gear, out, it seemed, in the middle of nowhere. The corporal leading us or should I say running ahead of us, was running at a pretty good pace that was leaving a few people behind. So, being pretty cocky, and in good shape, I decided to challenge him, so I ran up to him and passed him… you should have seen the look in his eyes as I ran past…total surprise. He caught up to me and passed me, and from there the race was on! For a couple of miles, we both traded the lead many times. Not a word was spoken except words of determination and drive.
When we arrived back at camp, there was no one behind us. We turned around and ran back to the troop who was just cresting the last hill before camp. I joined back in the troop, expecting to be cheered on for taking on the Corporal, only to find that the troop was quite upset with me. Upset because my responsibility, when we started the walk/run exercise, was to set the pace for the whole troop and in my blind zeal to challenge the Corporal, I forgot about everything else except winning. I forgot about the abilities of the others, and only thought of being first.
Today, over thirty years later, I still remember that lesson: When you are working in or leading a group, real success happens when everyone finishes together… and cheering each other on... not just the one who is in front. Yes it is important to do your personal best, and be the best that you can be, just keep in mind that success and a sense of leadership is much sweeter when you help someone else to succeed along with you. This done, that person can go on to become an effective leader as well, with your coaching acting as an example.
One thing is certain though, for any organization to be successful in the current business culture of “get more done quicker, better and with less”, everyone has to be thinking leadership. In the example above, if I had of had someone else in a leadership position leading us who was not out to make himself look good, but wanted to instil confidence in us and make us look good, then I definitely would have done something completely different. Leadership isn’t an “It’s all about me” game, it’s a “how can I grow the people to higher levels of competence” game.
A front line person demonstrates leadership by serving her employees in a professional and proficient manner. She assists in the decision making process, she offers options and suggestions for them to consider , she asks questions to get a clear picture of what the other person is looking for and she coaches her people through the problems and challenges that they have from time to time. People have to feel confident in their position with an openness to make mistakes that turn into learning opportunities. I’m sure that if you ask 80% of the people with whom you meet each day if they have a culture of learning or leadership within their organization, the answer will be a very strong “no”. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to guess that they would say just the opposite, that they are afraid of making a mistake in fear of getting called across the carpet by a dictatorial boss who doesn’t have a clue what the difference is between leadership and management, and who lives in fear of looking bad because of the actions of someone who has made a mistake and how that will make them look. They instil fear to eliminate mistakes, never realizing that when people are fearful, they don’t take risks, they don’t try anything new, and they don’t think in innovative ways for ideas to improve either production or profit. They are, in effect, mentally shutting down their performance.
Leadership is such a personal thing with all people. What we read in the paper and see in the news really only scratches the surface of the depth of the amount of extraordinary leadership that is in every culture and organization. In trying to define just what leadership is, I have discovered that leadership is a reflection of the person’s values, beliefs and actions. There are, however, certain qualities that are inherent in effective leadership that all effective leaders possess. They are: Self Confidence: The ability to make difficult decisions and make them stick. Enthusiasm: The ability to maintain a high level of energy and focus. Motivational abilities: An ability to rally the team and have them follow willingly. Clear Vision: They have a clear picture of what’s possible and can get alignment from all teams involved. Follow-up: can keep people accountable. People skills: able to make people feel like they are a part of the team and does it sincerely. Communications: Can deliver a message clearly and effectively, able to see other points of view. Passion: Nothing worthwhile can ever be realized without a certain elevated level of passion… it is the fuel for success.
So, this week, remember that leadership really isn’t about us; it’s about the results that we can create through the people that have been entrusted to us. It’s about making them look and feel good doing the actions that will achieve the vision. It’s not about running in front of them so they can see how fast you are, it’s about developing the abilities in your people so that they want to run in front of you to show how fast they are.
A Bit about me...
My vision is quite simple: to make an impact on the lives of the people who have been entrusted to me: You (for reading this article), my family and my clients.
I coach people. Direct, practical, innovative, meaningful.
I coach for excellence.
I love what I do... and so do my clients.
Over the years I've noticed that business coaching that was supposed to make us stronger actually took away our confidence and made us doubt ourselves. Confidence and people skills aren't developed just by measuring and planning everything, they grow through doing and learning from experience and by taking risks. People want to make a difference. Build teams. Be better understood. Live more confidently.
I founded IBC Impact Business Communication Inc. to create a world where business people communicate and act with confidence to create better worlds for themselves. Worlds where they feel powerful and free to express themselves. Worlds where something as simple as conversation creates energy, understanding and impact. Worlds so exquisite, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
If you found this article helpful, insightful or moving, please let me know, if you think it can help others, please share it with them.