I have heard dozens of people try to define leadership. Most of the time they were doing it in the context of what makes a great leader, great. Dr. Maxwell is paraphrasing the accent Chinese proverb, “If a leader doesn’t have anyone following him, he is simply taking a walk.” To lead, you must have people that are following!!!
The reality is that you and I have worked for good leaders and those that couldn’t lead a starving man to a steak. As you move through your career, the thing that separates those that thrive in their organization, versus those that languish, is they have learned how to lead. Sometimes they have the position and authority to lead. More often they have the moral right to lead based upon their contributions. Contributions to their customers…. Contributions to their company…. Contributions to their boss…. And most importantly….Contributions to their peers.
True Leaders Often Don’t Have The Title
Ask yourself this, have you ever been in a meeting where one of your colleagues drove the conversation even though they weren’t the “boss?” Of course you have. We have all been in that meeting. Why do you suppose that happens? I have an idea… You don’t have to be the “boss” (or named leader) to lead.
In fact, if you wait until you have the title, you will never be the leader. In my career I have had the privilege to promote over 200 people to leadership positions. Guess what I based EVERY SINGLE ONE of those decisions on? That person’s CURRENT influence. Sure, performance and work ethic had influence in the decision. But overwhelmingly I have looked to promote people that others were already following. Call me lazy, but I have always wanted to run with those that were already running.
Tim’s Six Leadership Tips
So how do you gain influence with you boss and your peers? I have six, sure-fire ways to gain influence and join the leadership ranks of your company.
- Do your job – In order to get noticed, you must do your own job with excellence! Henry Ford said, “A man can’t build his reputation on what he is going to do.” I remember when I was a young leader with Domino’s Pizza and was looking to get promoted, my supervisor told me that in order to reach the next level I needed to show that I could hit my numbers consistently.
- Develop yourself – “All growth begins with personal growth.” – Les Heinsen. Les taught me that if I wanted to become a better leader (or father, or husband, or community/church member, etc.) that I had to get better as a person. If you are going to lead people, by definition you must be ahead of them. YOU must be learning. YOU must be growing. YOU must be reading. YOU must be the expert on your product or service. I’ll say it again. YOU must be getting better as a person. Do you have a personal growth plan for 2018?
- Develop people – “To have success, there must be a successor.” In 2009 I was up for a major promotion. I felt that I deserved it. I had been at the top my company’s leader board in almost every conceivable category. Honestly there wasn’t anyone close. When the person who was making the decision asked me who would replace me if I was promoted, I didn’t have a good answer. In fact, I wouldn’t have promoted anyone on my team to my current position. In order for me to really move up, I realized that I had to have someone in position to take my spot.
- Make your leader’s job easier – Not harder. There is nothing more refreshing (or rare) than to have someone you lead ask, “What can I do to help YOU get to YOUR goals?” Most days leaders are constantly interrupted by their people asking for help. And that’s the way it should be. That’s what the leader signed up for when they became the leader. But if you can take some of your leader’s burden, you will be seen as someone who is truly a team player.
- Promote others – This is very counterintuitive but very real. By championing your co-workers and their achievement to upper-leadership, your stock also rises. It rises with the leadership team, but it really rises with the person you championed. You are building all kinds of influence by building people up. How much more win-win can you get? Unfortunately some people think that if they can make others look less attractive, they will stand out at promotion time. Not you though. You’re a builder of people!
- Serve – The best way to learn how to lead is to practice leading. If you are serious about building your leadership skills, but your organization hasn’t given you the role you want yet, then I have great news for you! Every non-profit organization, church, club, service fraternity, etc. is starving for people to help lead. You probably won’t start as the president, but I’m sure that if you raise your hand, you will get plenty of chances to lead. It might be coordinating the parking lot greeters at your church, or leading the volunteer janitorial crew. Don’t discount these opportunities. Leading volunteers will develop your skills more than you can ever imagine.
Remember, Leadership is influence; Nothing more and nothing less. I promise that if you adopt the six tips above your influence will grow exponentially.
The Hard Question
What are you doing to develop as a leader? Leave your answer in the comments below!
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Remember to volunteer for success this week!