I recently talked to a great group of business leaders about how they could become a great leader. That talk was inspired by one of my favorite leadership texts, THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE, by Posner & Kouzes. It is a true classic leadership text that continues to hold up well over the years, because the research that went into it, and the writing is that strong. Here are three more ideas that I shared with my audience the other day. I do hope that they will spark something in your soul.
- Inspire A Shared Vision: Sometimes leaders get confused and think that they can order commitment and accountability. They cannot. The only thing that they CAN do is to inspire their teams to see the same exciting possibilities that THEY have seen. This is a much better way to gain commitment to change and progress. By speaking in a clear way about the impossible future that they believe will become possible, by showing their team what the results will look like, and helping them to imagine how it will feel, taste, and smell, they inspire the team to greatness. Leaders breathe life into the dreams of others and help them to see the exciting possibilities that the future CAN hold if only we are strong enough to make it happen. Their belief, their commitment to their vision, are the sparks that ignite the flames of inspiration and draw the team into wanting to deliver on the vision.
- Challenge The Process: Don’t be timid, it’s not terribly becoming. Rather, decide that you are going to be a catalyst, one who will consistently SEEK challenges and ACCEPT the risks that go along with difficult challenges. Leaders know well that innovation and change require them to experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and by learning from their experiences. Do not settle for the status quo, or settle for the same old “business as usual” that others accept. Great leaders realize that even the most prepared and skilled people never succeed 100% of the time. This is especially true when they are expanding their grasp and pursuing truly ambitious results that include big risks, new concepts that haven’t been tried before. Still, these leaders know and understand that stepping out into the unknown is where the rarified air is, and where the successes are sweeter. That is why they willingly accept the learning that comes with success AND failure. Edison needed over 1000 attempts to get the incandescent light bulb right, and thank goodness he continued to press on after each learning attempt.
- Encourage The Heart: Don’t take your team for granted, encourage them to carry on, no matter the obstacle or barrier. Great leaders know that they need to uplift the spirits of their people at different points along the journey to a big new change and success. Encouragement might be necessary to help the team to begin, to help the team rally from a setback, to help the team to regain focus when the going gets tough, or when they start to lose their momentum. Often, the most important time to encourage the team is just BEFORE the finish, when the project has begun to wear away patience and commitment. As with American football, the going is relatively easy until we get down inside the 20-yard line, and then the yards get significantly tougher. The same is true with teams pursuing big goals and changes. When the team’s courage is flagging, the great leader recognizes that it’s time for some powerful encouragement, and helps the team to carry on to the finish. When victory is in hand, great leaders also recognize that a great celebration is almost always called for, and they lead the way by recognizing team contributions as well as individual contributions. By helping the team to see how the team rallied to a great victory, they can plant the seeds for the next great victory.
By following the great advice that Posner & Kouzes have baked into THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE, and by following their Five Practices for Exemplary Leadership, you can rest assured that you will be well on your way to earning the right to followers who will help your team or your organization to ambitious results. I hope you found our two blog articles about Leadership to be thought provoking. Remember that it’s up to you to make the first step. Unless you make the commitment to take action, you will not move forward to becoming a great leader. I wish you well and encourage you to let me know how it goes as you move forward…