A friend recently asked me a question related to leadership, which got me thinking about my leadership style and how I have developed over the years as a leader. Here are my thoughts.
Being a good leader starts with recognizing that you can’t do it alone. My LinkedIn cover photo is a quote from an African proverb:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Early on, I used to think, “Wow! It must be so cool to be a leader — the person in charge. You can tell people what to do and they will follow. Isn’t that awesome?”
Throughout the years that followed those teenage thoughts, I learned I was wrong. Being that bossy person isn’t cool — it’s literally the opposite: very uncool! Nobody wants to be bossed around or told what to do — I certainly don’t.
So, what does it take to be a good leader — to earn your team’s trust, to achieve success and not be bossy?
Step 1: Every leader needs to take time and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. What are you passionate about? What gets you going? What are you good at? What are you not good at? Where can you provide the most value? Answer these questions and make a mental note or write it down.
Step 2: Ask your close friends, colleagues, others you’ve interacted with about what THEY believe your strengths are. See if they align with the strengths you pointed out. Tell them to be honest with you about areas you can improve on. Now that you have collected this information, you can proceed to the most important step: creating your team.
Step 3: Surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses and provide value in places you don’t. Take the time to really get to know the people who will be a part of your team. Get to know them on a personal level — “friendzone” them.
I love people. I love being around them, learning from them, hearing their stories, hearing what makes them tick and what their goals are in life. By doing so, I not only create a relationship with them, I get to truly understandthem. Even when the person is a part of the team, I make an effort to constantly create a personal relationship with them and be genuinely curious about their lives and really try to help them wherever and whenever I can.
People perform best when they do what they love. Think about your time as a student in school. If you loved Math, you probably scored well on your Math exams. The inverse is true as well. (The thought of Trigonometry and Calculus still scares me.)
As a leader, find out what your potential team members love, and together, create a role guided by their passions, that will ensure the most success for the organization, team, business, etc... Then, let them lead their vision.
Far too often, I hear the word “delegate.”
“Delegate that task to John.” “The best leaders know how to delegate.” I could not disagree more. Every time I’ve “delegated” something to someone, they either don’t do it, do it poorly or complain about doing it. Why? Because most of the time, it’s not something they want to do.
What works best for me is knowing what my team members are passionate about, what they are good at, and allowing them to take that role on, with minimal guidance on my end. This allows them to take the full responsibility and hold themselves accountable for their vision(s) and actions. For me, setting the overall vision and knowing there is a team of people better than me to execute the vision, on their own terms, is a sign of success.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best leaders are better followers. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best listener and that I always want to be the one talking — that does me no good as a leader. In fact, the best decisions I’ve made are the ones where those with a better understanding of the topic at hand chimed in and led me to make a decision.
Step 4: Lose your ego. This one is a tough one. It’s easy to get carried away with being the leader, the President of an organization, the CEO, the boss, but you have to stay grounded. You need to recognize that you are no more important than the people around you. Your title is just that — a title. If your team does not trust you or respect you, your title is irrelevant because you will fail as a leader. For me, Step 4 is a daily struggle — a work in progress. You need to understand that you are just like every other person you are working with and you will reap the rewards.
Step 5: Have fun! Laugh. Be silly when appropriate. I was listening to a conversation with Patrick Bet David and entrepreneur/Instagram sensation Gianluca Vacchi and here’s something Gianluca said that stood out for me:
“People that don’t laugh are not serious people.”
When you and your team have a good time doing what you’re doing and get to know one another and like one another, you will hold each other accountable and you will want to succeed.
Being a leader isn’t easy; it’s not always fun, but it’s always rewarding. I’m far from being a leadership expert, but I’m “LIT” — a Leader in Training.
If you got this far and read the thoughts in my mind, I would love to hear from you. Do you agree with me? Do you think I’m crazy? What’s your leadership style? Leave a comment. Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org