|You've been promoted, and now you lead a group of people. Wow! Congratulations! As you bask in your new-found career glory, maybe you need to ask yourself a few questions:
1. What does it mean to lead others?
2. As a leader, who are your mentors?
3. When the going gets tough, where do you turn?
What does leading others mean? Most people who become leaders do so suddenly. Former President Barack Obama probably pondered the question, how did I get myself into this? The preparation for leadership comes to us subtly. No one says, "I'm going to prepare you to be a leader today." Instead, they select you to run a committee or to chair a meeting or to run as president of your class. Perhaps you were always "it" in the first grade. Becoming "it" means others see you as a leader. What does that mean?
It means others entrust their future to you. They believe you will take them where they want to go. They think you have their best interests in mind. Often people get moved into positions of leadership simply because they have been in the company a long time or just because "it's time." These people have no idea about the burden of leadership. They do not understand that leaders cannot act out of self-interest, but out of common interest and the common good. Such leadership takes a particular person who has had grooming and preparation. The best leaders permeate self-confidence. The best leaders admit mistakes. The best leaders build up their followers.
Who are your mentors? The higher up you go on the leadership ladder, the fewer people you have to talk to. Who are your mentors? National leaders study their heroes and heroines from history. They pay attention to what others have done before them. You, too, can learn from watching others. Experience is the best teacher, but experience takes a willingness to falter without failing. Failure only happens when we do not learn from our mistakes or when we blame others for our shortcomings. Many of today's leaders turn to executive coaches for mentors. They spin ideas off their coaches to get another point of view. That point of view is safe, confidential and honest. Coaches willingly tell leaders what they think. They tell them the truth. The higher up you go, the fewer people you'll find who are willing to tell you the truth.
When the going gets tough, where do you turn? As a leader, you must remain at the helm even in bad times. Today, as we face economic hardships, we turn to our leaders to help us understand what to do. Federal Express recently reduced the salaries of its top management. Other companies are following that lead. The point? If the leaders are unwilling to make sacrifices, why should anyone else? Leaders, who take the first step, are leaders we will follow. Who are we to follow if our leaders do not act?
Leadership is lonely. Anyone who has experienced the top rung knows this fact. Effective leaders guide us by showing their humanity. They sacrifice with us; they rejoice with us. Ultimately, we give them the most cherished gift of all, our willingness to follow them.
The best leader is the humble leader, the leader willing to admit mistakes, ask for direction, and listen to others. If you are afraid to show your vulnerability or if you fear not knowing all the answers, you will fail as a leader. Jim Collins in his bestselling book, Good to Great, labeled the ideal leader as a Level 5 leader. No one reaches Level 5 without going through Levels 1 through 4. Those who ask questions, face the unknown with calm, take risks, and continuously search for ways to embrace the challenge of leadership reach Level 5.
In truth, the challenge of leadership means constant learning. Within the realm of that teaching comes a willingness to listen, to exploring Article, to create and to change.
Aim For World-Class and Be Legendary,
Your Coach - Christian