Self-Assessment Quiz ─ TRUE or FALSE:
- I understand that leadership begins with trust and having good character traits.
- Being a leader goes beyond being the first to raise my hand for something.
- Confidence and having a positive attitude are core values of a great leader.
Okay, newbie, if you answered FALSE to any of the questions above, it’s time to get into the leadership game. What can you do? An excellent leader is one that can not only lead a team but, on a more personal level, can also promote team collaboration, develop opportunities for others to grow, and coherently communicates expectations. If you can focus on just these three qualities alone, you will become that emerging leader that employers are scrambling to get and keep.
Here are three tangible ways up and coming leaders can ensure you’re headed in the right direction. Let’s break them down one by one:
#1: Promotes team collaboration: Getting people to work together for the greater good requires a bit of finesse. Can I suggest that you first up your listening skills? Use your ears and your eyes. Listen to what people are saying as well as what’s not being said, and what is or is not being done actively. (Remember to read body language, too.)
- Example: I tend to be very verbal at work: on conference calls, in meetings, etc. Whereas I have a male colleague with whom I’ve worked with for 14 years who tends to be more reticent in these forums. We both experienced a manager who so egregiously offended our sense and sensibilities (actually she was a repeat offender of everyone on her team) that without a conversation between us, he and I inadvertently switched roles. I became very quiet on her calls and in her presence. She wasn’t worth my time to engage with. He got assertive and aggressive. People who had worked with us for years noticed the transition right away. Our boss, however, was clueless. Because she paid no attention to us as individuals, she couldn’t see the shift in dynamics. But that shift got noticed by others, and let’s just say she wasn’t the boss of us for long, and ultimately left the company altogether. When teams don’t feel a part of your collaboration they seek opportunities to detach from you. They won’t freely collaborate. and anything that is forced, isn’t going to garner best practices. Needless to say, this is NOT good. Pay attention people! If brilliant Roxanne becomes quiet and seems to retreat during team meetings while Georgette tends to dominate discussions in these same meetings, use your awareness of this to coax ideas specifically from Roxanne. Make sure she is allowed to speak and express her entire thought. You may need to ask Georgette to hold on a minute and wait her turn before speaking. You can orchestrate this whether you are actually leading the meeting or not. Your awareness will facilitate and encourage communication that leads to team collaboration rather than collapse. And if Roxanne and Georgette ever switch roles on you — recognize you’ve got a really big problem on your hands.
#2: Develops opportunities for others to grow: If you operate from a place of integrity, you’ll be better equipped to recognize your direct reports’ and co-workers’ needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Why? Because you’ll have their qualities at the forefront of your motivation to succeed. A leader knows if one succeeds, all succeed. A leader knows successes (and failures) are shared. A confident leader NEVAH steals someone else’s ideas and presents it as his own. But rather offers others the chance to shine along with him. Nor does a true leader abscond all responsibilities when things don’t go according to plan. I see a LOT of the latter behavior in the workplace. Own the bad stuff too people, it’s the only way to right course going forward. No one likes to feel as if they’ve been thrown under the proverbial bus.
- Example: You’re on deadline for a huge presentation highlighting the growth of the company. It requires some pretty intricate number crunching. You could do it yourself and take all the glory, or you could ask for assistance from the summer intern Patricia— an econ major and numbers whiz who has already demonstrated that she is totally on fire with her skills (including being able to do a pivot table in Excel, dayumm Patricia!) Patricia is looking for just this opportunity to be in front of the higher-ups. You can give her that shine and still shine yourself. This is such an easy win-win! If the presentation bombs, you own that you overshot the forecasted numbers and leave Patricia out of it.
#3: Coherently communicates expectations: A leader has a plan that includes vision, focus, and discipline. A leader uses her passion and drive for success for this plan to help her communicate expectations from the team because she’s so dang clear on what she wants. Like beauty, clarity is in the eye of the beholder. Just because your vision is clear to you, doesn’t mean it’s clear to your team. One of my favorite ministers, Reverend John Norwood, used to ask the congregation, “Clear as mud or clear as water?” You want to be sure what you are communicating is clear as water of course. The fastest way to do that? Ask your team or colleagues to repeat back to you, in their own words, what the expected deliverable or outcome is. And more importantly, what the action steps are for getting to that outcome. You might just be surprised at how far apart what you’re communicating is to what others have interpreted. When in doubt seek clarity for #Success .