When you hear the word leadership, do you cringe at the sound of it, aspire to embody more of it, or ponder your daily job? Regardless of what season you’re in or what you do for a living, we’re all called to lead. It might look like starting a business, holding formal job title, or simply navigating the role of motherhood. Wherever your leadership journey has you right now, here are five tips to help you thrive.
Make it about others, not you!
Modern-day America makes it easy to make things about us – our success, our happiness, our growth. But, what if we swam a little upstream on this one? What if we instead made our work about others? You know what would happen? You’d find more happiness, more success, and more growth because more purpose lives there. We’re not talking about exhausting yourself working for free; we’re talking about mission-centered, purpose-centered, others-centered work. It doesn’t matter if you own your business, work for a large or small company, have a remote team, or are doing volunteer work, this principle is key.
Let me unpack this a little further. It’s not about making people’s job easier per se, but about making it easier to do their jobs, share their craft, use their creative brains, and leverage their unique skills. Think about what it is that your customers or your team or your organization both needs and wants. Now, how can you shift “your” work to meet them there? How can help your team deliver exactly that?
Help others succeed
True confession…I wish I’d learned this one sooner. We get scared to let go of things, delegate, and invest in other’s success because of two main reasons. The first is that we’ve created a rhythm – a rhythm that looks and feels the way we we want to it to. Simply put, we believe that can do it faster and better. Or, we buy into the fear that someone might just be better, do better, or move up faster and as a result, we’d fall behind.
The truth is, a leader’s job is to help others succeed. Think about any group, business, organization, or classroom. When the outcome achieved is a successful one, you know there is a good leader at the top. That leader has motivated, engaged, inspired and equipped their people for great things. How? By removing barriers. By finding out what motivates their people, unpacking what they’re working towards, and knowing what ultimately drives them. When we get out of the way and help pave the way for others to be successful, success will come in its due time.
One final note on this tip: Helping others be successful does NOT mean doing their job for them. Instead, it looks more like clearing the path in front of them, providing them a vision to work towards, and cheering them on along the way.
Build bridges, not walls
Really get to know people. Being a leader is rooted in relationships. It’s rooted in caring about people, investing in people, and getting to know people at a greater depth than “how’s it going?”. Get to know their work before and after the “work” comes to you. Get to know who they are as a person, not by the work they do. Who are they outside of work?
Your job is to build bridges, not walls. Building a strong bridge begins with getting to know what’s on the other side and finding the best way to build the connection. So start asking deeper questions. Steer clear of questions that end with a yes/no response. Engage in conversation. Spark up a deeper conversation with people. Invest in building meaningful relationships.
Engage and invite people into a greater story
Everyone, including you, wants to be part of something. Something they’re passionate about, something bigger and greater than themselves. Why? Because momentum and purpose live there. Initiative lives there. Go on and help create that vision for people. Then, give them a seat at the table and take the initiative to lead the way.
When people are part of building something, or when they feel valued, needed, supported, and purpose-filled, they are limitless in what they’re able to achieve. And when you have this multiplied in the context of a team, the work or department or business you lead becomes limitless. The question is, what’s the greater story you want to lead, ignite, and invite people into?
Guarantee the RSVP
Make what they’re being inviting into worth their RSVP. As you get to know people, embrace feedback, and better understand the needs and wants of others, you’ll have a better idea of what this vision should be. As you step into this vision and invite others in, think about what it should look like and feel like. What feelings do you want evoke? And always remember that if you’re inviting others in, speak their language. Use their words, communicate clearly (and often), and always express your gratitude.
Aim at the Right Target
A former boss of mine would often challenge our department with the question, “What would it look like to be best in class?”. Challenge the status quo and think about what excellence or being a best in class team, business, or department would look like. Step into that vision, but be flexible about learning in the process. A great leader is always growing, learning, and improving. As you pursue your path towards excellence fully, don’t forget to pick up those lessons from failures, from others, and from feedback along the way. Stand your ground on the things that truly matter and be willing to make changes and pivot where bridges need to built rather than walls.
As you step back into your role today, think about how you might be able to make your work more about others today. Help someone else succeed today. Get to know someone new or deepen an existing relationship. Invest in people and invite them into a greater story. And lastly, cast a vision for excellence in the work you do. Step into that vision – pursue it fully and hold it loosely, being willing to change when change is knocking at your door. And lastly, keep your eye on the prize and make sure that prize is one that truly matters.
Happy leading right where you are.
Check on more on this topic in this podcast episode.