Who doesn’t want to be a great leader?
To inspire, to excite, to lead their people to great things.
To be revered and remembered for their work and their impact on lives.
To be a force for change! Lasting, memorable change!
And this because every significant achievement that the world has ever witnessed has been led by a great leader. But so has every great atrocity.
And while most of us secretly believe that we are very good at leading people – that we deserve positions of leadership and responsibility early in our lives – the truth couldn’t be farther from our delusions.
Most of us are terrible leaders.
We make every leadership mistake in the book and then some. Yet we blunder on through lives convinced of our own greatness and continue inflicting life-altering damage wherever we go.
But all is not yet lost.
If we can learn to recognise the signs of life-damaging leadership, then it is possible to course-correct. Or if that’s not possible, then at least we can lay claim to self awareness and stop living in delusions of grandeur.
So here are 3 signs that you have the makings of a Great Leader (or that you don’t!) so read on to recognise yourself…(or not)!
1. You inspire, not terrorise!
Your interactions with your teams are often stressful but it’s the shared stress of achieving a common goal. It is replete with two-way communication, laughter and excitement-generating insights. People come away feeling enthused and respected. Feeling heard, valued and excited about achieving that common goal. About being a contributing member of the team!
Earlier on in my career, I often confused respect with terror.
The outwardly manifestations are quite similar, so I console myself that it was easy to be mistaken. The downcast eyes, the deferential behaviour, the careful hearing and concentration that happens when the leader is speaking.
These could all potentially be mistaken for respect, right?
Untill you notice the carefully-blank expressions, the controlled responses and the relieved laughter whenever you leave the room. The silence when you enter the room…the noise when you leave! Sounds familiar?
So while leadership is about leading a group of people towards a goal or action, even a sheepdog is a leader of sorts, but it’s not one that the sheep are really enthused about.
So it’s critical that we are able to distinguish between whether we are generating excitement or terror. And if you can’t tell the difference, it’s time to start focusing on the non-verbal cues that your team is sending you all the time.
2. You encourage real opinions!
There are some environments – created by respectful, thoughtful leaders – that are safe places for teams – where employees feel comfortable enough to say what is really on their minds even and especially if it’s not politically correct or runs counter to popular opinion in the organisation.
This is a safe place where they are ensured of a fair hearing and a environment that respects thinking, that is critical yet meant for the good of the organisation & comes from a place of concern and caring!
Creating such safe places is a challenge for leaders who…
- have been successful in the past & are now hard-wired to believe that they are always right
- time-strapped, don’t have time to listen & want action, action, action all the time
- don’t really trust the team that they have hired and are convinced they know better
And that is because creating this safe place means spending the time necessary to generate trust amongst your team members & allowing them adequate space to find their groove.
It means listening with equal intentness & zero judgement to the bad ideas because you never know when a good one may be hiding in there.
It’s not easy. But it is tremendously rewarding.
In addition to creating a vibrant and empowered culture in your teams, it eventually results in the emergence of more leaders within your organisation and that’s always a good thing.
3. You trust enough to let go!
I think I will build this ship all by myself, said no master ship builder ever!
While it is tempting to supervise and oversee your team’s work to an excruciating degree, it is eventually a disservice that you are doing both to yourself and your organisation. It will create several far-reaching and adverse consequences that will take on a life or its own and eventually kill your business or startup!
Not letting go, has several adverse consequences!
- It will disempower teams. Now, instead of finding their own solutions and way through the organisation, your teams will do the minimum work possible and then sit back and await for direction from you
- It will choke your bandwidth. You will spend so much time directing the day to day work of individual teams that you will have no time to do your own and the company’s direction, strategy and pace will suffer as a result.
- It will stifle capable employees and you will eventually lose them as they see zero growth and micromanagement. You will then be left with the woefully incapable lot, who will require even more direction. And choke even more of your bandwidth.
- It will raise your stress levels and give you a heart attack. Or at the very least, constipation. I’m not kidding.
Growing as a Leader is a life-long process and just when you think you’re getting better at it, comes a lapse in judgement that makes you question yourself.
But if you are able to consistently inspire your teams, encourage the voicing of real opinions and let stuff go, then you are well on your way to being that rarest breed of them all…a great leader!
So, upwards and onwards, ho…!
Disclaimer: I am not a great leader, but I am learning everyday, that wanting to be a good leader, is half the battle won 🙂 so here’s to learning on the fly and changing lives for the better, everyday!