Over the weekend, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is relatively new to people leadership. For quite a long period of time, he was an exceptional individual contributor for his organisation, was considered a ‘high potential future leader’, and hence was provided the opportunity to step up into a leadership role approximately 3 months ago. During our conversation, he was sharing with me that he was really struggling to have an impact within his team – it seemed that no matter what he tried, he could not get his team to deliver the results and outcomes he was looking for. He was constantly giving them instructions and direction, and yet the results were inconsistent. It was beginning to frustrate him, and it was certainly frustrating his team. As I was listening to him, I wondered about what he was actually doing on a daily basis, so I asked him the question – “John, what are you doing each day? How are you leading your team? You do know that your team is actually a reflection of you?”
This question came as quite a shock to John – he had been so focussed on trying to be the best leader he could possibly be, he thought he was doing the right thing by providing direction and instructions to his team. However, when he analysed his own routine, what he was doing and how he was thinking, he realised that he was in fact asking his team to carry out instructions that he was not carrying out himself, hence there was a disconnect. I then shared with him 2 profound questions that one of my early leadership mentors shared with me – these are questions that each one of your direct reports will ask themselves (either consciously or unconsciously) in relation to your leadership :
- Does my Leader care about me?
- Can I trust my Leader?
As a Leader, we also ask the same questions of ourselves, and the answers to these questions will ultimately shape our leadership and our ability to influence others.
Whether you like it or not, your team is and will be a reflection of you. If you take the path of least resistance and cut corners, guess what? So will your team. If you compromise and lower your standards, guess what? So will your team. As such, the responsibility you have as a Leader should never be underestimated – everything you do, will be magnified and played out through your team. So how can you become clear on where to focus? Here are some probing questions to ask of yourself and your leadership, because the answers will be reflected in your leadership mirror (your team will play it out) :
- Are you 100% crystal clear on your Leadership vision? As a Leader, have your created a clear picture on what you are seeking to achieve? What do you stand for? Why are you in a Leadership role and why is it important to you? Are you on a mission to create something incredible, or are you simply going through the motions? As is written in Proverbs, ‘where there is no vision, the people will perish’ – create a compelling vision for your leadership.
- What standards have you set for yourself and are you consistently upholding them? The standards become your leadership operating principles, and these principles will underpin your effectiveness as a leader. When setting the standards, ensure that you utilise strict criteria that will force you to narrow in on the standard. For example, is the standard sustainable? Will it stand the test of time? Is the standard replicable – can it be upheld all the time, anywhere, and by everyone within the team? And is the standard non-negotiable? Set and uphold high quality standards.
- What Values are you living by? The performance of a team is very often a reflection of the leader’s values, so it is critical to clearly identify a set of leadership values to live by. Your leadership values are yours to create and implement – they are not a specific set of ‘ready made off the shelf’ values that you can simply plug and play to achieve the result. Your values must be based on what is important to you, and directly linked to your leadership vision and standards. Your values become your leadership compass that guide you towards your vision. Clearly identify your leadership values.
- How is your attitude? Do you maintain a consistent positive and optimistic attitude or are you a little like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, making it difficult for your people to know which character you are in from day to day? Do you need a ‘check up from the neck up’? A consistent attitude on your part can create a feeling of ‘groundedness’ and certainty amongst your people, which can then translate into more consistent high level of performance.
- Are you holding on to the reins too tight? Are you so focussed on ‘dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s’ that you are suffocating yourself, let alone your team? What if you loosened the reins a little bit, what would happen? Could you allow yourself to relax and take some chances, knowing that you have a clear vision, clear set of values, strong standards and a great attitude? Loosen the reins a little, and notice the difference.
- Do you trust yourself to deliver? Following on from the previous point, can you empower yourself to deliver, to take some chances, knowing that sometimes you may make a mistake? The path to success is very rarely a straight one – there will be many obstacles, detours and often dead ends along the way. However if you can trust yourself to continue to move forward, to learn from the mistakes, you will face those obstacles and challenges with resolve, and in the process teach your people a very valuable lesson.
- Are you building a strategy or merely being tactical and reactive? Great leaders build strategies, and then implement them. They are proactive in their approach, and whilst they understand that there are times when they need to be tactical and reactive, it is their strategy that will always drive the tactics.
- Are you taking the time to plan? Or are you simply spinning your wheels and getting caught up being busy? It has often been said that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ and whilst you may be very busy as a leader, the underlying question to ask yourself is ‘are you being productive and effective’? It is very easy to get caught up in the busyness of leading the team, however, by taking the time to plan, you may well discover that your level of busyness will reduce and your productivity and effectiveness will increase. Take the time to plan.
- Are you prioritising time to grow and develop? As articulated in last week’s article, Leaders are learners, and they will always prioritise their growth and development. They understand that their team’s growth will be a reflection of their growth, and as such, they are uncompromising in their focus on growth and development. Make your growth and development a priority.
- Are you focussing on how to serve your people? This is a massive question, and one which is often overlooked. Are you seeking opportunities to serve your people, or are you focussed on how your people can or should serve you? The answer to this question will have a significant impact on your ability to influence others, and therefore your results. Great leaders understand that their fundamental role is to serve their people, that their success is built on the success of their people, and that their legacy is built on their ability to uncover, grow and empower other leaders from within their team. Focus on how you can serve your people, and notice what happens.
Leadership is not easy, it is not for the faint hearted. It takes discipline, persistence, and an unwavering self belief in your ability to lead others. And with leadership comes great responsibility, as your team and your people will be a reflection of you. Take the time to ask yourself the above questions and explore what is being reflected in your leadership mirror. You may just discover the difference that makes all the difference to your people, and to you!
To your continued leadership success.
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About : Darren is an Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant, Trainer, Facilitator, Speaker. A passionate and driven individual specialising in personal development, strategic planning, coaching for advocacy & enhanced performance, situational and servant based leadership, executive coaching of people leaders, emerging leaders and ‘high potential’ individual contributors within the Enterprise & Government market, personal change management, and strategic workshop facilitation & training.