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Growing as a Leader – What stage are you?

Author: Larry Chester, President

Leadership isn’t just a selection of who is making the decisions, it’s more a question of who is guiding the team forward.  Whether you are the head of a department, a consultant working with clients, or the CEO of a company, you have power to make decisions.  But the ultimate question is, “what kind of a leader are you?”  Are you evolving as a leader?  What kind of a leader do you want to be, and what do you need to do to get there?

When we talk about leadership, there are a number of stages that really show your position in not only making decisions, but how and why people follow you.  There is a reason why this is important.  People who voluntarily follow your lead are more fully engaged.  They believe in your cause, your goals, and will automatically take the next steps that are needed without your telling them what those steps are.  As a result, it’s important for you to know what stage of Leadership you’re in.

  1. Who am I leading? – Even at the initial level, you are providing leadership to yourself.  You are deciding what you are going to do.  You need to be intentional in making your decisions.  If you are only following what others are saying, and waiting for them to tell you the next step, you’re not ready to grow as a leader.
  2.  Delegate – Probably the hardest thing for any “new” leader to do is to let go of the responsibilities that they have. But you need to.  Turn them over to someone else.  Provide them with the direction and the motivation to work on their own.  Do the things that only you can do.  Initially, your staff isn’t going to be able to do it as well as you can.  But that is part of leadership.  Understanding what you need to do to get work done through others is one of the first steps to being a leader.  Two primary keys are motivation and training.  They need the tools and need to feel empowered to do the work.
  3.  Follow because they MUST – Whether you are a department manager or a CEO, your subordinates do what you direct them to do because you control their paycheck.  Their job depends on doing what you tell them.  Being in this position allows you to get things done, but there is a price.  You cannot successfully lead with fear.  This will allow you to get things done, but likely only at the level that you direct.  Thinking outside the box, understanding the next step, isn’t part of their modus operandi.  Unless workers are willing to work independently, growth is stifled.  Not everyone is your clone.  If they were, the creativity that drives ultimate success is lost.
  4. Be respected – The goal is to be followed because people respect you.  They want to come along for the journey.  You might be someone that people like to talk to, but that means that you’re a drinking buddy, not a leader.   Sharing information, supporting your staff, listening to their ideas and thoughts and empowering them, shows them that they are part of your team.  If they are respected, and they become part of the process, they will follow your lead.
  5. The mentor – Your goal is to develop others.  You have a wealth of knowledge. Your experience has been gained over many years of work and interaction with people, processes and companies.  Give that knowledge away.  Guide others.  By sharing your experience, you build the abilities of those around you.  You gain their respect by your sharing, and you strengthen your team by bringing them into the common knowledge that has guided the decisions that you make.
  6. The Seer – It’s one thing to react to what is happening now.  But having foresight and using it as a means of setting a course of action brings a whole new picture to the world in which you work.   This doesn’t mean that you need to predict the future.  In business and in life, your decisions are guided by information.  Everything that happens is preceded by other events.  These are leading indicators.  Use that information to continue to build your ability to understand what is going to happen next.  You then become the strategic guide, the one that people will look to for help in preparing them for what’s coming next.
  7. Beyond your circle – We all work within intersecting circles.  Your family, your neighborhood, your business, your church, synagogue or mosque each have members that form individual circles of influence, and you’re the point of intersection for all of them.  Spread your wings, broaden the groups with which you interact.  Share the knowledge and experience that you have with others.  Not just in the circles you’re a member of, but in new circles.  Provide them with insight into the experiences you have, your view of business, your philosophy of working with others, your understanding of the forces that created the current work environment.  That’s how you build a following – by expanding into new areas.

Not everyone wants to be a leader.  Some are satisfied with the work-a-day world that they currently inhabit.  But the fact that you’ve read this far says that you’re interested in becoming a bigger influence in the world around you.  But it doesn’t happen by your sitting at your desk waiting for an email from someone new.  It doesn’t happen by your just reading what others write.  You need to reach out.  Give of yourself. Become a contributing member of a new circle.  Reach out beyond your comfort zone.  Become the influencer that you want to be.

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