The word “Leadership” has become a buzzword. Everyone WANTS to be a leader, but few know how to lead. Many designated leaders these days are leading the wrong way. They lead in a direction that is not working.
This short piece is all about leading the RIGHT way and respecting your time. We will suspend the sensationalism, stories, and rhetoric. The concept of leadership can be taught, but the essence and capability of leadership must be conditioned through the experience of being a leader, most often in the crucible of conflict and overcoming adversity
Leadership is about inspiring others to believe and enabling that belief to become a reality. To do so, you must make sure your message is authentic and, as importantly, the audience is listening.
Leading means meeting people where they are. It is the only way to convert self-interest to a shared interest. Leaders defy drama and focus on delegating with effectiveness, leveraging, and applying their team’s strengths.
In the normal course of business, thousands of employees make hundreds of decisions every day. In a crisis like we are currently experiencing, decision-making amplifies in orders of magnitude. Leaders must “illuminate the boundaries”, the left and right guardrails, for the actions of others throughout the organization. The leader sets the course and the destination, articulating the “commander’s intent” – the mission, the purpose, and guardrails. Then others take it from there.
Command-and-control is not the answer in a crisis. A centralized response, yes, but at the end of the day, the decisions and actions must be made by leaders on the “front lines.” They are the ones who know best in the context of the people, the community, the culture, and the gravity of the situation they face. Consider this, can any business leader in the U.S. tell any leader in Italy or Spain what to do for their employees right now, in the context of keeping them safe and healthy? Empowerment happens when leaders are willing to surrender control, give direction, set the boundaries, offer support, and then get out of the way.
When leaders talk, does anyone listen? The best way to ensure the audience is tuned in is to personalize the communication – who we are, what we believe, what we value, and what matters most. The leader, as the curator of the organization’s narrative, must ensure that authentic, relatable themes are key aspects of the messages they communicate.
No leader wants to charge up the hill, then discover halfway up that no one is following. Attracting followers requires an emotional connection on a very real and human level – especially in a crisis. To do that, leaders must commit to meet others where they are. What matters most is not what the leader achieves, but how people are emboldened to act.
The leader’s job is not only to show others the clearing in the sky but also to enable people to punch through it. Especially amid great uncertainty, leaders need to paint a picture of the future of what’s possible and how they can make it happen. If leaders wait only for others to believe in them, they will probably be waiting a long time. Instead, leaders need to believe in others. When they do, they will be amazed by the results.
The world needs effective leaders, especially these days. It’s time to challenge yourself to step into the role and capability of leadership that we all need. If you consider yourself a leader, it’s time to step up!
About the Author: Chris Steely is Managing Director of GPS Business Group, a veteran international business consultant, serial entrepreneur, professional facilitator, coach, extreme leader, and executive strategist with repeated success pioneering business development efforts, working with companies and thought leaders around the world. He’s an MBA, former U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Officer, corporate vice president, senior director of a public IT company, business owner, NCAA national champion and coach, and inspirational author & speaker.
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