Leadership : How To Become A Great Leader

Five steps that will change your life

Brian has over 25 years of experience consulting to all levels of management and staff.

His most recent work has included strategy building sessions and processes. He brings to all his assignments a solid background in project management and group facilitation, gained through experience in banking, manufacturing, health care, education and insurance sectors. A Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), with experience gained in this field in both Europe and Canada, he helps organizations align strategy & people.

Brian is a board member of Habitat for Humanity, Edmonton and a member of their Human Resources Committee. Habitat for Humanity, working in conjunction with sponsors, donors, volunteers and partner families, opens the door to home ownership for low income families.

 He can be contacted at brianward@affinitymc.com

Have you ever had a boss who simply didn't get it? You know, the type who had no vision, no focus, no clue?

Many bosses find themselves in leadership positions without ever having consciously made the choice to become a leader, let alone a great leader. 

The 'Peter Principle', (named after it's originator L. Peter)  states that in modern organizations, most bosses rise to the level of their least competence, like the specialist (e.g. accountant, engineer, lawyer etc.) who is so good at their craft that they get promoted to a management position in 'charge of people' without having mastered any real leadership skills. And then they bomb. It's not their fault, they were promoted into the position with little or no training or mentoring...it's sink or swim. 

In some cases I have come across, well intentioned promises of leadership development, coaching or mentoring were made to the leader when they were appointed, only to fall by the wayside because more pressing business matters crowded out the hours in the new leader's day.

If you are in this position, or you know someone who is, (your boss?) helpful advice is available. Just read on...

First, What is Leadership?

When you become a leader, you take on a great responsibility...you promise to change the world for the better. If your reaction to this statement is ‘I’m only managing an organization, or department, or school, I’m not out to change the world’, then I respectfully suggest that you learn to be a good manager, but not a leader. Leaders cause change to happen, through people. Managers control things. That’s it. The world needs great leaders. It has its fill of managers. Lead people...manage things.

How much leadership should you take on?

How much you cause the world to change is up to you…it’s just a question of degree. The community leader who hopes to change some social condition affecting their community rallies people to that cause…they are clear on it and know the distinction between it and changing the same social condition affecting a whole country, or the globe. They provide a clear focus on their community goal, and they don’t (at least initially) try to go beyond that. Likewise, the school leader may try to change a paradigm concerning their school, their school district, or may go further and try to change an entire school system; the business leader may try to change their company’s culture, or even that of their entire industry. It’s a question of degree, it happens by choice, and it defines your success as a leader. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson captured it nicely when he said: 

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

5 Key Leadership Questions

This article will discuss how you can succeed as a leader, to become as great a leader as you choose to be. It will assist you on your journey by asking critical questions in five key areas. By answering these questions you will be led to discovering insights about your leadership focus, how much you know about yourself, your level of courage and persistence, your ability to listen to and work through other people, and your sense of timing in getting things done when they need to be done. 

A word of caution however…once you start asking these five questions you will find that there will be no turning back…proceed only if you are serious about becoming a great leader…

Question # 1: FOCUS

How focused am I? How much of my time do I spend communicating and inspiring people about our mission, vision, values or strategic goals? How much focus do I create in my organization? How married am I/my organization to methods that have outlived their usefulness, that do not support the focus?

Question # 2: AUTHENTICITY

Am I viewed as authentic? Do people see and hear the real me? Do I wear a mask at work, and remove it when I leave each evening? When I commit to something, do I always keep that commitment? How high is my ‘integrity quotient?’

Question # 3: COURAGE

How courageous am I when my focus and values are challenged? Do I stand firm, and only change my position when I know that I am wrong? How well do I communicate what’s not negotiable (the focus) and what is (how to achieve the focus)?

Question # 4: EMPATHY

How empathic am I? Too much/too little? Do I create enough opportunities for open and candid dialogue? Do I ever find myself getting bogged down in consensus building, or achieving false consensus? Is there a feeling of inclusiveness amongst the members of my immediate team, my organization, and with other stakeholders, including customers?

Question # 5: TIMING

Do I make and execute decisions in a timely fashion? Do I know when to 'fish or cut bait?' Do I demand well-coordinated and timely execution of strategy from others? Do I follow-up regularly? 

The Leadership possibilities are endless

Asking these five questions in a candid way will open up many possibilities for you and your organization...if you have the courage to do it. 

As you make your way on your journey, keep in mind that your diligent attendance to these five facets of leadership is what will distinguish you as a leader in the true sense of the word…it will present to you many opportunities to develop and share your leadership skills, but only if you are prepared to do so.

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