After a month away from the office and travelling around Canada, and back to Australia, it got me thinking about the presence of leadership in all of our travels. And we all travel. It may be to the store, it may be to another town or it may be to the other side of the globe, but one consistent thing across town, borders and continents is the importance of leadership. From the grocery store, to political parties, to your school, university or workplace, it is leadership (good and bad) that is ever-present and what mostly drives us to want to succeed.
Leadership doesn’t necessarily come naturally to people who are in positions of managing other people, and people are promoted to leadership roles on the basis of their technical skills, rather than on their leadership skills, all the time. If you’re an aspiring leader, here are three questions to ask yourself daily – that you must answer “yes” to daily – in order to provide a solid foundation and boost your chances of early success, as you travel through towns, industries and even borders in your leadership journey:
1. Am I authentic in my interactions?
Authenticity is easy to see, as is the lack of it. Speaking and acting genuinely is a pivotal part of leadership that complements integrity and is necessary in order to foster trust and open relationships. Leaders who are considered trustworthy are better able to influence others, while increasing morale and productivity. Three ways to develop your authenticity are:
- Avoid contradiction between your words and your actions. The adage of “actions speak louder than words” mostly applies in a negative context so doing what you say you are going to do will boost your credibility and respect as a leader, whilst inspiring your team
- Freely admitting your mistakes and acknowledging your shortcomings promotes trust and demonstrates integrity. It is okay to show vulnerability to your colleagues
- Share some of your learning experiences with your team members that are relevant to their development. This shows your human side, that you faced and overcame adversity and what the positive outcomes were.
2. Am I receptive to feedback?
Feedback is a gift. However, it doesn’t always feel like a gift, particularly when it insinuates that there is room for improvement. But a gift is exactly what it is, so to stand out as a leader, you must seek feedback, and you must be receptive to and act on developmental feedback. Furthermore, actively collecting feedback helps you gauge your progress while helping to pinpoint your efforts and strengthen your leadership skills.
Ways of demonstrating you are receptive to feedback are:
- Regularly seeking feedback about your leadership from multiple sources – up, down, across
- Accepting feedback graciously whether it’s complimentary or not helps you to win trust
- Not reacting defensively, particularly when the feedback is unexpected in both nature and timing
- Asking specific questions – by being distinct you’re more likely to get specific feedback
I discuss accepting positive and developmental feedback in HR Hot Tips #51 & #52 in my book.
3. Do I bring out the best in individuals?
Great leaders know that their own success relies on the success of the people they lead and that one of their chief responsibilities is to foster their team members’ skills, abilities, interests and efforts. A chief leadership responsibility is to build the engagement and capability of your own staff members. Leaders who bring out the best in people:
- Empower through delegation and support, without removing the responsibility
- Involve team members in establishing goals through conversation and collaboration. This boosts ownership and engagement
- Truly understanding each individuals’ personal and practical needs, and then leading in a way that meets these needs
- Asking what matters to direct reports in a one-to-one, open ended conversation. Find out what tasks they like and don’t like, how they cope with and relieve stress, and how they like to be recognised, for example.
An important thing to remember when pondering leadership is that people leave a boss and not a job. HR Hot Tip #67 discusses this in more details. But when you’re starting out, asking yourself – and answering yes to – these three questions will provide a solid platform from which to build your leadership skills, early on, and stand you out as a leader.
My book 101 HR Hot Tips: Handy Secrets for Success in the Workplace covers various aspects of leadership. Purchase it here.
Would you like a free consultation? I provide career counselling and coaching to candidates. See http://www.harlandhansen.com for more information.