This is a summary of a LinkedIn Live broadcast that can be found here
Are leaders born or made? Can you be born a highly charismatic leader? Or do you have to learn and improve? Well, in my opinion, I think great leaders are made. The more you learn about leadership, the more choices you have when it comes to leading your team.
The principles I’m about to outline apply to all leaders in all businesses. However, I’ve picked the five things I think from my experience that first time leaders should focus on in the first year or two in their position as a leader and where people look to them for leadership.
First, ask yourself this question. ‘How can I make this business, or team, outlast me?’
When you ask this question, your focus shifts from you and your position as leader, to the strategic future of your business or team.
Second, work hard on the first of Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits for Highly Effective People’, which is ‘be proactive’. But proactive about what? Proactive about the opportunities that exist for you, your business and your team. Fight the urge to rest in your comfort zone and actively seek new markets, new products, new ideas or innovations and efficiencies that improve profitability.
Equally, be proactive about risks. Reduce the likelihood of your major risks actually happening, or work hard to mitigate the impact of any risks that could happen.
First, communication is the response you get. Think about that.
It doesn’t matter what you thought you said, if the response you’re getting isn’t right, you need to improve the communication.
Second, know your audience really well. If you do, you’ll understand their concerns and you’ll be able to address them.
Third, double, triple and quadruple your communications. If you send an email, double up with a call. Triple up with a presentation to the team. Quadruple up with a video blog to reinforce your points. Why? Everyone absorbs information in a different way, so you’ve got a far better chance of getting through if you communicate in different ways.
Teach Others to Think
This is probably the most important one of the five areas.
You don’t want a team that is dependent on you. You want a team that is capable of thinking for themselves, reaching decisions independently and standing on their own two feet.
How do you teach others to think? You can raise their self-confidence through developing their skills through learning, training and mentoring. The more they know, the more likely they are to arrive at the answer without involving you.
Better still, you can coach them. When a team member brings you a problem, say ‘Well, I have a few ideas, but before I share those, what are you thinking?’. Sometimes you could say ‘I’m curious – how would you have handled this if I’d been off work today?’. Soon the team will get the message that you want them to think through the problems and try solutions for themselves before they come to you.
Lead with Speed
This is all about removing friction and bottlenecks in your business.
First, give your team the authority and resources they need so they don’t need to keep coming to you to get things signed off.
Second, recognise that a decision is far better than ‘paralysis by analysis’ as you wait for a perfect solution to arrive. Make a decision, alter course later if need be, but get people moving at speed.
If you’re the bottleneck in your business or team, it’s time to delegate authority to the lowest possible level and get people moving!
Build Powerful Networks
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. How often have you heard that? It’s true – the relationships and networks you build as a leader are far more important than any knowledge you might have.
The absolute key in this area is to build relationships and networks with abundance. What do I mean by abundance in this context? Start with ‘How can we make this work?’ as your standard response. Your reputation will soar and you will be a preferred contact of those people who normally hear people saying ‘That’s not possible’. Your abundant mindset will allow you to grow your network and create powerful relationships.
First time leaders have a lot on their plate. Leading is a lot different to just ‘managing’ or ‘doing’.
Think about how the business will outlast you; that will get you thinking strategically. Communicate well and on multiple levels so that your message is clear and effective. Create an independent team by teaching others to think for themselves. Make a decision and lead with speed – friction and bottlenecks are bad for business. Finally, make great connections and do so with an abundant mindset. One of the most powerful phrases in growing businesses is ‘How can we make this work’!
Good luck on your leadership journey.
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