Not all of us naturally know how to lead. Some leaders have received training, had a mentor or are just plain naturally intuitive leaders. However, many wing it and hope for the best. If you want to be a great leader, here’s what you should know.
Accept a lateral transfer.
My clients sometimes complain of boredom. Here is a direct quote: “I can do this in my sleep, and if I was near retirement, that would be a good thing, but I’m not.” The conversation naturally then moves into a desire for a promotion.
When a lateral transfer is proposed, many leaders seem to balk at this notion. It is as though they’re insulted. Here’s the thing: A lateral transfer promotes your versatility. By accepting a lateral transfer, you showcase that your skills are transferable, you can learn new things and you can build relationships with a whole new set of stakeholders.
Do not exercise command and control.
The good news is that you have been assigned a cool initiative. Leaders, rather than viewing this as a collective exercise, sometimes decide they are in charge and go for the glory.
Remember, diversity of thought brings richer solutions. You will never be rewarded for being the sole architect, even if the project successfully gets off the ground. Your brand should be about bringing different views to the table and never about what you solely think is the best.
Demonstrate emotional resilience.
Things go wrong. Of course, this creates frustration and anxiety. Your job is not to be reactive. Rather, be that leader who guides your team through the storm. You may not have the answers right away. With careful consideration and dialogue, you are sure to find the solution. Be known as the leader who can navigate through tough times.
Read the room.
Passion leads to high energy and enthusiasm. On a good day, this is inspiring and infectious. On a not so good day, you may miss key signs your audience is not on board.
Watch your audience’s body language. Poor eye contact, reverting to mobile devices and laptops, fidgeting, confused and unhappy facial expressions are cues that mean something is not aligned. Now, stop and take a pulse. Then, recalibrate and allow for a healthy discussion amongst your team members.
Stop being so granular.
Trust your own capabilities. It is assumed that you know your stuff. Your audience wants a high-level overview and an understanding that you are aligned strategically. The more senior you are, the more you must let go of defending your position with tactics. Show that you grasp how your mandate fits into the overall vision.
Ramp up your EQ.
How often do we hear, “They have great technical skills, but on the leadership front, not so much”? Before you charge ahead with your how to and technical recommendations, think about the need to build rapport.
Yes, you might be a subject matter expert. Everyone, though, has a need to win and a particular lens regarding how to achieve that win. You must work to understand their vantage points. If you don’t, you will be seen as running your own race. No matter how hard you run, if you don’t seek to build relationships based on colleagues’ vantage points, it is unlikely you will get traction. Your brilliant ideas may never see the light of day.
Adopt a mentoring role.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you officially take on mentees. What it does mean is that you are invested in helping others succeed. You should be known as a leader who takes the time to guide and offer advice to those who aspire for more. In essence, as a leader, you want to be viewed as a confidante where others see you as a safe haven and sage advisor.
Being a great leader requires many roles and many challenges. With each experience, you pivot closer to being the ideal leader. Remember, people do not leave jobs — they leave bosses. Be that leader everyone wants to work with.
By Cindy Wahler
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