Jennie Marshall | 19 January 2016
Will 2016 be the year you tackle the tough stuff?
You've heard the saying that leaders aren't born, they're made.
I disagree. I believe we all possess the capacity to lead.
Through their exhaustive research of leaders for more than 25 years, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner have this to say in their book, The Leadership Challenge: "Leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others. What we've discovered is that people make extraordinary things happen by liberating the leader within everyone."The challenge is figuring out how to 'make' it happen. How to unlock the leader within.
To some extent, we all take on leadership roles at some point in our lives, from running a business, to leading a department, to coaching the local kids' sports team.
Once we identify with being a leader, however, it's easy to grow complacent and satisfied with where we are in that role.
Yet the best and most effective leaders are those who continue to evolve, grow, and develop their leadership skills.
Here's my challenge to you right now: answer these questions:
Relationship building is a critical leadership skill, and one that can be learned. Whilst it is intuitive to some, for many it is a challenge because each relationship is unique and situational, and requires adjustment, compromise, and negotiation. Here are some steps to building successful and sustained relationships:
- What obstacles are in your way of achieving your full leadership potential?
- What behaviours do you tolerate in yourself and in others that are impeding your leadership potential?
- What is it costing you to do nothing to develop your leadership skills?
- If you were demonstrating your very best leadership, what would be possible?
OK, so you have answered the questions. Assuming you answered them truthfully, you most likely identified at least a few areas that needed some improvement.
The following self-assessment can provide a deeper insight:
Below you will find a series of statements. Tick the statements that are true for you.
- I'm in a leadership role at work, but at the end of the day, I'm still wondering if I'm doing what people expect of me as their leader.
- I feel like I spend my day constantly putting out fires. I barely have time to breathe much less develop my people.
- One of the things I find stressful about my job is providing feedback on the performance of my employees.
- One of the things I avoid is asking for feedback from my superiors, colleagues and employees.
- When there are conflicts at work, I figure the best way to handle these conflicts is by ignoring them because everything eventually works itself out.
- I sometimes delay having important conversations because they can be uncomfortable or frustrating.
If you find that you identify with two or more of these statements, chances are it's time to flex and develop your leadership muscles.
Here are some strategies for doing just that.
Being aware of who you are as a leader is the first step in unlocking your untapped leadership reserve. As you can see from the previous exercise, from time to time as a leader, you need to take a step back and hold up the mirror. Take a time out to give yourself some rare breathing space to reflect on your own performance and abilities as a leader
Keep in mind that you don't have to fix everything at once. When you decide to run a marathon, you don't go out and run 26.4 miles during your first day of training. Identify one or two behaviours that will start you on path.
So, for example, if you've been putting off a challenging or awkward conversation, take time to identify the key message points you want to convey. Then, develop your strategy for holding that conversation, considering the time, place and environment that will be most conducive to having a productive conversation.
Having challenging conversations is a big part of developing yourself as a leader. Here's how to start if all this is new to you:
- Write out what you're going to say and practice it. For example, if you need to give critical feedback to a colleague, write out what you'll say and practice until you're comfortable with what you're saying and how you're saying it.
- Role play can act as a useful mechanism to practice your script. Act out a scenario confronting a difficult employee or bringing up a sensitive issue. Role play this with a colleague - someone you trust. Going through the verbal as well as physical motions will increase your comfort level.
Have someone hold you accountable. You've probably heard that one of the best ways to stick to an exercise program is to have an exercise buddy. The same is true here. If someone holds you accountable to your action plan, you're much more likely to follow it. Here is where executive coaching and leadership development can really play a critical role in your success.