Do you ever question the future of our precious planet and all of its inhabitants? Whatever happened to people like JFK, Gandhi, Princess Diana and Martin Luther King Jr.? It seems our leaders have left us a bit in the dark, when it comes to creating hope and trust in the future.
Is it possible that we have lost track of what it means to lead? So many of us seek out roles that appear to have authority, autonomy and prestige, but we neglect to evaluate the responsibility that comes with leading any group. It’s hard work. Different than picking rocks or washing trucks or serving an endless stream of customers at a store checkout, but difficult. So before you jump on the leadership bandwagon, there are a few things you need to know.
You are the visionary. This takes creativity and courage. It’s a risky business and your ideas won’t always be great. Learn to listen to your people, but also listen to your instinct.
You are the planner. Details matter. If you don’t do details, find someone who does. Ignore them at your peril.
You are the cheerleader. In order for any idea to gain traction, people have to buy in. How you communicate will play a significant role. Take the time to find your supporters and plan a communication strategy. Consistent messaging requires consistent effort.
You are the fuel. Does this mean you control the budget? Yes, but it’s more. You control the time, resources and energy that sustain your team. Never underestimate your influence over the enthusiasm with which your followers commit. Remember, in order to do excellent work, they will need excellent tools, but they will need to be sustained over time. Budget time and resources, for the present and the future.
You are the scapegoat. Sorry, if it’s a bust, be prepared to take the fall alone. Any good leader spares his/her team when blame is awarded. That said, be sure to be honest and open when evaluating with your followers. If they trust you, you can bet the next project will fare much better.
You are the sounding board and the touchstone, so please listen. This may be the toughest part of leading, especially for A-type personalities. A-types are assertive, results-based achievers, who delegate out of pure necessity within their time-bound objectives. (At least, this A-type is particularly obsessive and driven.) Please, take the time to develop real, meaningful, work-appropriate relationships with your team (all of them). The reciprocal trust will pay off, both emotionally and financially. (As an aside, this can be a source of much stress and distress for leaders. There are people who will thwart your trust and hurt you for the sake of hurting you. Be sure your closest advocates are trustworthy and strong. You will need them.)
In reality, your title means nothing. Leadership is a practice, not a job title. Leadership is aligning your actions with your core values and your passions. Leadership is walking the talk. Leadership is living by example. Yes, leadership can be learned, but the values that cause people to follow cannot. Your followers (whomever they may be) can sniff out a fake, when the winds are high. Lead with your passions and your values and you will create a loyal tribe to weather any storm.
I know there are still bold, courageous and pioneering souls out there who can connect mind and heart and ultimately, eventually right the human race. I ask you to continue to live according to your values and be the change you wish to see in the world.