I never truly considered myself a leader until I had the title of “manager,” and even then it was a difficult pill to swallow. Why? One: because I was so busy with my day-to-day obligations, it didn’t occur to me that I was being looked at as a leader. Two: being a leader is scary. It means we have to deal with a lot of problems we don’t really ask for. It means we have a big responsibility – to be role models, to take care of conflict between co-workers, to “know all the answers” – all on top of doing all the other stuff our jobs require.
So, what does being a leader really mean to YOU? Some believe it’s all in the title, but does having a fancy title automatically make you the perfect leader? Certainly not.
Think back to a great leader or mentor you’ve had. What made him or her great? The qualities I remember about some of the best leaders I’ve worked with include the following:
- Passion for their work and the people they worked with
- They asked tough questions and truly sought to understand the why
- They did more listening than talking
- They built trust by sharing their experiences and mistakes and what they learned from each
Now think back to a bad leader you’ve had. Believe it or not, there is value in having bad leaders, too. They can make you react in ways you may not have thought of before. For example, what not to do in certain situations or how to go about things differently. And they can still have a positive impact on you and help you learn a great deal from the experience.
Here are more talking points my colleagues and I came up with on how you can uncover your strengths as a confident leader:
Show Your Vulnerability
Defined as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Being vulnerable is certainly a risky proposition and one most of us are not excited about experiencing, yet it’s a key trait all of us must possess in order to be a great leader. And leaders who are passionate about their work and their people will show their vulnerability because they believe in what they do through good times and bad.
Vulnerability is not weakness. And neither is not “knowing all the answers.” Quite simply, our vulnerability builds trust because it shows others we are human.
Be Open to Feedback
Seek out feedback and wisdom from other leaders or just those people who inspire and challenge you, whether in your organization or not. And remember – you don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room to be a good leader. Be humble by opening up yourself to ask for help. C.S Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” If you possess the willingness and courage to admit when you’ve made a mistake, you will also earn the respect of your peers and leaders alike.
Know Your Beliefs and Biases
Based on past experiences, we all bring our own beliefs and biases to our relationships, to our jobs, let’s face it…to everything we see and do. Recognizing these beliefs and biases, your values, and what drives your behavior are so important when leading others. You will no doubt bring them to the table when making decisions or handling conflicts between others, so by identifying them ahead of time can help you manage the situation at hand more objectively.
Books by Steven Covey, Simon Sinek and Patrick Lencioni (to name a few) and tools, such as the DiSC or Myers-Briggs assessments, are great ways to help discover your strengths. But be warned, they are not the only way. Tools like these do not predict job or leadership success.
Leadership is not one-dimensional and should not be approached from only the technical or scientific aspect. And it’s more than tactical – as much time that’s spent on the tactical side should also be spent on the interpersonal side. In other words, tools can be very useful, but connecting with people by a regular cadence of communication is key.
Consider Your Culture
It may feel like some people are natural born leaders and have it all figured out, but they still need to be nurtured and developed. Remember that the type of leadership you have in your organization is what determines your culture. It sets the foundation. If your foundation is growth-minded, transparent, creative, and innovative, then that culture will follow. You can have all the talent in the world in your organization, but if your foundation of leadership, thus your culture is weak, then all that talent will either fall into bad patterns or go elsewhere.
One last thought…do things that scare you, push your boundaries, things you don’t really think you can do. All of these things can help you uncover strengths you never thought you had!
And if you need more help, Pathmakers can help you and your leadership team uncover your strengths, individually and collectively. Visit our website and contact us today for more information.