I recently wrote an article about how leaders focus on things a little differently than others and that it’s not that they engage in different activities, as much as it is how they engage. Leaders tend to think differently about their daily activities and focus on a different outcome, so they get exactly that. One example that I used was that some of the best leaders I’ve worked with enter a meeting thinking about what they need to learn from their team and how to help them find solutions, while others may enter a meeting thinking about what they need to tell their team about how to execute better. Both leaders had a meeting, but only one actually moved the business forward and increased the capability of the team.
One of the key points I was trying to get across is that leaders are typically thinking about how to best help others improve as they go through their daily activities, while many managers are focused more on what they need to get from others during those same activities. There’s plenty of time for leaders to focus on what they themselves need, but that should be done when they aren’t around others in the business. That’s precious time to learn and to understand different perspectives that others have. The more leaders understand the perspectives of those around them, the more they are likely to broaden their own view, look at problems in new ways, and find new solutions and new avenues to greater success.
A few days after I wrote the article, I was taking my 5 year old son fishing and caught myself making the very mistake that I was asking leaders to be aware of. I was standing there while he was fishing, but I wasn’t engaged in what was going on with him at all. I was thinking about my own business and the things I needed to do to accomplish my own goals. I was missing a leadership opportunity. And although it wasn’t about business, it was still about leadership. Becoming a leader isn’t just about business; it’s about others.
I wasn’t focused on helping him build capability, cast better, learn patience, or even build a better relationship with his Dad. I was thinking about clients and projects and deadlines and business momentum. It’s impossible to lead others, in business or in any area of life, while I’m focused on my own needs but that’s exactly what I was doing.
I go through a lot of days thinking about what I need to get done and there’s a need for that. I should be focused on goals and growth and making a difference in how the business succeeds. But as leaders, we need to recognize when we should be focused on those things, and when we should be focused on helping others build their own capability and fuel their own success. Those are the times when we really make a difference for others and build a business that’s capable of accomplishing more.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s in business, a family, or a community. Leaders who understand when it needs to be about someone else and make the most of those opportunities are the ones who create capability. They understand that real success is about helping those around them become able to accomplish more. Not just because it’s fundamentally a better way to go about things, but also because it will take any group of people to a higher level. In business that means success and growth. In a family or a community it can have even more impact. I need to remember that when I’m working with others, or fishing with my kids.