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Leaders don’t lead through fancy talk.  They lead through consistent action.  Most great leaders aren’t brilliant or the top of their class.  In fact most leaders learned how to lead in school already.  They didn’t lead in school because they had some position such as student body president.  They probably led a little tribe within the school.  As they got older they learned how to lead better and moved on to bigger things.

Leaders know that you don’t have to be great at everything.  You just need to be a lot better at a few little things than anybody else. 

People don’t wake up one day and say: “I think I am going to be a leader today.”  And then everyone starts following. 

That is not how it happens.

Leaders are people who stick their neck out on things and aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.  Once they get a few wins and gain confidence with others through consistency they are on the path to being a leader.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert in a field.  Leadership is no different except it might take double to really be effective.  Why do I say that?  I think your path to leadership should be about 10,000 hours so you can figure out how to be a great leader.  And your next 10,000 hours as a leader lets you learn from failures and victories so you can truly become an effective leader.  No, you won’t be effective if you don’t look back on a regular basis and learn from your mistakes. 

Do you want to be Ordinary or Extraordinary?

The key is being CONSISTENT especially in your learning from failures and mistakes.

How do you start your day?  How should you start your day?

This is a question I have been wrestling with lately.  Do you start your day off with your to do list in front of you and accomplish the first big tasks?  Or do you go and connect with your people first?

I have seen the effects both positive and negative of both.

As I work through this issue that has been a constant pushing and pulling it has been really difficult. 

Which of the following is you?

Focusing on To-Do List Person

You feel a huge sense of accomplishment by getting the things done you need to get done.  Your task list is clean and neat your desk is tidy and you don’t feel behind.  Each day you feel like you accomplished what you needed to.  Personally you are getting a lot done.

Focusing on People Person

You spend most of your day talking with people.  You know a lot about what is going on with everyone on your team.  Some days at the end of them you wonder what you accomplished all day.  You look at your to do list and see nothing of yours personally got done.

 

Don’t be too much of a To Do List Person.  You are probably really talented as a leader and can accomplish more than anyone else on your own.  But there is only one of you and there are many who are part of your team.  Your job as a leader is to make sure that everyone on your team is running as effectively as possible. 

Make your team the first priority on your to-do list.  Maybe even select one person on your team each day to connect with and find out what is going on.  Find out how you can maximize their talents.

Recently I have heard the phrase many times “I am going into full time ministry.”  I don’t mean to be nitpicky about this phrase but it is one of those phrases that downplays what every other person does.

Does being in “full time ministry” or work having to do with the church make you that much better of a person?

I get worked up a little when I hear phrases like that because sometimes I take it the wrong way. 

Instead I have decided to use this phrase to challenge myself.  I don’t believe full time ministry has to do with just the Church.  We as Christian leaders need to being doing full time ministry in our jobs on a daily basis. 

We as business people come across a wider range of people that most people in “full time ministry” would ever come across.

I don’t mean to be negative with this but I brought this more as a challenge to myself.

Why does it bother me so much?  Probably because I do not treat my life as full time ministry right now and I know I should be. 

When people ask me what I do I want to use the phrase (or something like it) “I am in full time ministry.” 

I don’t need to be connected with a church or organization to be in full time ministry.  I should do it every single day.

Can leadership be learned in some school?

I think some of the characteristics of what a leader should exude can be learned from school, but I don’t think being a leader can be learned through school.  Leadership is learned through trial and error, through mucking it up and making mistakes and having the gumption to learn from them. 

These are the five main characteristics that help a person become a great leader:

  1. Failure: Leaders are not afraid to fail and are not afraid to stick their neck out on the line.  They know true success comes only through failing forward.
  2. Learning: Leaders are always looking at different avenues to learn about things that could benefit them along the way.
  3. Passion: To be an exceptional leader and a person you need to have some passion.  People are more willing to follow people with a little passion.
  4. Integrity: True leaders do the right thing at all times no matter what the cost.  They know that long term success is more important than any short term wins.
  5. Giving: Leaders are always looking at how they can help people out and make them better.

What do you think about true leaders?  Are they born or made?  Before you decide read this article by George Ambler at Practice of Leadership.

In our microwave culture we want to be leaders now!  And we focus so much on trying to be a leader now that we forget that leadership is learned along the way and doesn’t just happen overnight.

Valeri Maltoni at Conversation Agent had this quote in an entry she wrote on kicking hind tail:

"The surest way to guarantee nothing interesting happens is to assume you know exactly how to do it." [Kathy Sierra]

Have you been around those people who think they know it all?  I don’t know about you but most of the successful leaders I know around (in terms of how I view success) don’t act like they know it all.

First let me give you the definition of how I view success:

  1. Left or is leaving a legacy: When this person moves on or passes away what they accomplished and did will keep going without skipping a beat.
  2. Invests in others: Along with leaving a legacy they were true teachers and trainers.  They kept giving toward others.
  3. Hire the Best: They aren’t afraid to hire smart people and get out of their way. 
  4. Give others the Credit: They don’t need the credit so they pass it on to everyone else.
  5. Stick to their Guns: They aren’t afraid to compromise on anything but their ethics and morals.  They never make short term decisions that affect character in the long term.

 

Successful leaders who I have met do not act like they know it all.  Most of them are actually more interested in me and what I know.  There is almost a humble, genuine, interest in how they approach people.

Selfish leaders are hoarders and Successful leaders are spreaders.  They give away things to others and in turn receive things ten fold.  They aren’t at all interested in always getting something for things they do.  They are interested in the betterment of everyone.

Stop assuming you know it all and listen to others and even ask for help.  You will never know it all and the more committed people involved the more you can accomplish.

You know what happens when you do assume: 

You make an ass out of you and me.

It is way easier to think bad thoughts and to let them keep flowing in your mind rather than thinking positive thoughts.  Especially when things are going wrong it is way easier to get on the negative bandwagon than to try go against the flow and think of something positive.

As a leader you need to step back and see these things happening and do things to correct them.  Stop pointing out the negative and start revealing all the positive around us.

Here is an quote I read in one of Kevin Eikenberry’s blogposts on being positive.

James Clavell’s novel Shogun
"To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the
world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral down into ever increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that discipline – training – is about."

Kevin also talked about how enthusiasm, passion, and a positive approach are all contagious.  I could not agree with him more.

It is way easier to sit back and just say things are going to happen.  It is a lot harder to get up every day and stay positive.  You need to discipline yourself to stay positive.

Tricks to staying positive:

  1. Smile: It is amazing how this thing alone can transform you and those around you.
  2. Start Your Day off Right: Read something positive such as the bible or another book to get you grounded for the day.
  3. Flip Conversations: Once a conversation starts going negative flip it and say some positives.
  4. Take Time to Reflect: Debrief at the end of each day and go through the day and what happened.  Then figure out how to turn those positive.
  5. Realize your blessings: Look at how blessed you truly are.  Maybe your job isn’t fun, but at least you have one.  Maybe your kids are being naughty, at least yours are healthy.

Being a positive thinker and person in general is one of the hardest disciplines.  It is especially hard when you are tired or stressed.

Being a positive leader will set you and your company apart for years to come.

Why don’t more people stop complaining about things?  Why don’t they quit pointing out problems and start coming up with solutions? 

Do you want to know why?

Complaining is way easier than actually coming up with solutions.

Jon Gordon had a great story of people turning a negative into a positive at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  Read about it here.

It is a great story of how the leader got everyone together to find a solution to the problem.  Instead of complaining about the problem at hand, which wouldn’t have done any good, they worked on a solution.  Everyone sacrificed a little bit for the good of the team.

How do people come to the solution mindset instead of the problem mindset.  It can be as simple as one person switching the conversation. It is really easy to get on the problem mindset.  But if you get one person who has the solution mindset it can be just as easy to turn it around.

Don’t be content talking about problems and making excuses.  Talk about Solutions and make the problems seem miniscule.

You will never be a great leader if you don’t care about others.  If you view every interaction with everyone else as what can I get, rather than what can I give?  You are doomed to a lifetime of mediocre leadership.

If you really don’t care about others you need to re-examine why you are in leadership. 

Why are you in leadership?  Are you in leadership for yourself and what you could do.  Or are you in leadership for others and making everyone around you the best you can be.

“Others” focused leaders:

  • Sacrifice for the good of the team.
  • Get to know others.
  • Don’t do things for recognition, but rather shift recognition to others.
  • Celebrate others successes and ideas.

It is easy to recognize those out there who are not others focused.  But to find the real gem leaders who are “others” focused you don’t hear about as much because they shy away from recognition.  This is in large part that what gets accomplished as a group is way more important than the individual.

What kind of leader are you?  A me leader or a we leader?

A blog post from the Leadership Turn called You Are Who You Hire got me to thinking about why people are hired.

From talking to many people around, managers at many companies are afraid of losing their job to new employees.  Especially with the job situation how it is right now.

One of the people that I talked to lately quit his old job because his bosses wouldn’t teach him how to use a certain program.  The reasoning is that he could do the job better than them and make things easier and possibly replace them.  Basically this company lost one of its best and brightest because a couple of others were afraid of being challenged and losing power.  If your company gets to the point where people are afraid of losing their job and start to protect themselves rather than further the company, you are in trouble. 

Why are some people so afraid of losing their jobs?  These are my best guesses:

  • They stopped learning years ago.
  • They don’t like change.
  • They are threatened by others.
  • They view interactions with others as win-lose instead of win-win.
  • They are selfish and don’t really care about others or the business.
  • They might be plain lazy

What if everyone in your companies goal was to train and learn from everyone they hired.  And viewed new people coming in not as threats but as opportunities for the business and themselves to become great. 

My dad always said that one of the reasons he was successful was that he hired people smarter than himself and got out of their way. 

If you love people and want the best for them and don’t need the credit, isn’t this how you should act?

Stop being a MICRO manager and start being a MACRO Leader.  It is not you against everyone else.  It is you and everyone else mutually benefitting from a relationship.

Make your goal at your business progression.  Hire some great people and work your way out of a job.  If you are as good a leader as you think you are you will easily be able to find a new challenge.  So invest in someone, heck invest in lots of people.  You will be glad you did.

From an article by Diane Coutu I found through a blog entry at the Practice of Leadership.

  • Competence lays the foundation for trust. It’s the thing that first attracts followers, even if the leader’s character is not particularly noble. Soldiers prefer winning tyrants to likeable losers. In business, employees look to their leaders to take the decisions that make sure they’ll keep their jobs and get paid.
  • Integrity is the next step in the hierarchy of trust. A leader must be honest in his dealings with others or he will quickly squander the trust that he earned through being competent. It’s important for leaders to remember that followers are more likely to forgive lapses in competence than lapses in integrity. "You’re incompetent," for example, carries none of the sting that "you betrayed me" does.
  • Respect is the glue that keeps the trusting relationship going. Civility and appreciation for the dignity of others is both the cause, and the result, of trust. The arrogance of the car bosses in calling for their executive jets showed a profound disrespect both for their employees and for the American taxpayer. This kind of disrespect boomerangs, eventually, given the emphasis most people place on fairness.
  • Consistency is the real engine of trust. Even if a leader shows competence, integrity, and respect, but fails to behave consistently, she won’t capture people’s hearts and minds. No one wants to follow a leader who is trustworthy one moment and unpredictable the next. Without reliability, there can only be pseudo trust between people – especially in relations where the power is asymmetrical.

All of these four add on each other.  First of all if you don’t show competence no one is going to respect you.  If you do not know what you are doing you cannot lead someone in that.  Next you need integrity.  For people to trust you, you need to do what you say you are going to do.  By having integrity and being competent you will gain respect for doing the right thing.  When people respect you they will go to the next level to do things with you and for you.  Do all of these on a regular basis and you will have consistency.  People love it when people are consistent and love it when people don’t change with the blowing of the wind.