I get to work with a lot of good leaders, senior executives and rising business superstars. These emerging and accomplished leaders have a few things in common that separate them from the others. One of these things is their definition of leadership. Leadership is one of those words that we think can be defined in terms of preference or style- as if there is no right or wrong way to do it. Unfortunately for businesses, having this mindset means people can call themselves a leader because of their title, not because they actually lead. If a salesperson stopped selling for very long, they wouldn’t get to keep the title of salesperson. If a builder stopped building or a driver stopped driving, the same fate would be waiting for them. But, if a leader doesn’t lead, we simply say that’s just HOW they lead. Why would we allow bad management to just be considered a different form of leadership, when we wouldn’t settle for that in many other jobs?
Successful leaders define leadership not by what they accomplish themselves but by what others accomplish because of them. Because our culture allows us to define leadership however we want, it’s the choice people make about what great leadership means to them that defines their success as a leader. In leadership, the results are measured by what gets accomplished by others because of how you communicated, interacted, developed and the examples you set for how things get done. If you want to know what kind of leader you are start by asking yourself the following:
What is better around you because of you?
Look at your organization, your team, your business and ask yourself what is better because of your leadership. Try to isolate things that others consider better, not just things you did yourself.
Who accomplishes more because of you?
Are there people who are more capable because you are there? This is not about people doing a better job because you told them what to do or because you gave them the answers but because they have become more capable at solving problems or more engaged in their work and at achieving their own success.
Who made a different choice because of you?
As leaders we get to affect the decisions people make on a daily basis. Can you think of a time when someone was making a choice that wasn’t best for their success or their future or the future of the team, and an interaction with you caused them to think differently and make a better decision? I don’t mean short-term changes because they were worried about the consequences but lasting shifts in the choices they make.
Leadership is about more than getting things done. It’s about how things get done, and more importantly, if they get done better or more effectively tomorrow than they did today. Leading means we cause people to grow, change, develop and also learn to lead themselves and others more effectively. If we allow ourselves to measure our leadership by the title we have or the success we have achieved ourselves, we may be measuring our management or our individual contributions, but not our leadership.
Leading Through Influence
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