In my mind, true leadership and leadership mean completely different things. Anyone who is leading anything and not just in a career sense, can call himself or herself a leader. It is when we begin talking about true leadership the tables are turned.
Whether you are 25 or 85, you are a leader. Whether you are the leader of your family, your sports team, your church, your department, or a leader of a billion dollar organization, true leadership consists of the same concepts. All of us are leaders in some sense; it is how we choose to embrace leadership that makes it true.
What do I mean by true?
In order to convey this answer, I must share with you some context of my own experiences in leadership.
I have noticed qualities in present and past leaders that I both admire and strive to avoid in my own role as a leader.
I once had a boss over a decade ago that told me I was too happy. I thought instantly this was a ludicrous statement. I came to realize, however, that my happiness triggered something in the person that they longed for.
I had another boss that did not meet with me, did not give me performance evaluations, and so on. I thought I was doing a great job, but I couldn’t be completely sure. My paycheck and my working badge told me I was performing sufficiently.
I had a boss I felt did not support the team or me because they did not want to create waves in the organization.
The true leaders I have worked with have been over the past five or six years.
I felt empowered
I didn’t feel micromanaged
I was encouraged to make recommendations for continued improvement and efficiencies
I felt appreciated
I felt like I was making a meaningful contribution to the organization.
I have taken these experiences and Jenified (yes, I made up this word) them, if you will, into my own idea of leadership, true leadership, which I strive to live by daily.
Leadership does not mean telling people what to do. It is a give and take relationship, which should continuously be nurtured.
Here are some elements of true leadership I would like to share with you, in no particular order.
Long gone are the times where only logic prevails. There is a need to incorporate instinct, a gut check if you will. I often say, use intuition and logic will follow, and I truly believe this. I do not mean solely to rely on intuition but to find a balance between intuition and logic.
Let me give you an example.
Let us say you are giving a presentation. If you were solely using logic, you would prepare and give your presentation exactly as planned. If however, you added a little intuition, you would think about the audience when preparing the presentation and adapt depending on the verbal and non-verbal responses during the event. This adaptation may look like less group work, more jokes, and in the end, you have created a logical presentation with intuitive additions which has made the experience so much better for all involved.
This intuition really can be used in any situation. If you are not accustomed to using intuition, then practice. Be present. Focus on the people around you, their personalities, their gestures, and their words. I promise you this addition of intuition in your daily life as well as in your role as a leader, will make a huge difference in the quality of your work, team, and so on.
Empathy has to do with really getting to know the people around you - having an understanding and compassion. If something is going on in someone’s life and it is affecting his or her work or personal life, try to understand. It means so much to a team member if first, you know what is going on and second, you have real empathy. I use the word, real, because empathy cannot be faked. If empathy does not come quickly to you, try putting yourself in their shoes and see how you would feel.
Sometimes, empathy and intuition may go hand in hand. For example, you may intuitively gather that something is wrong with someone simply because you feel it, or by their words, behaviors, or actions. The next response would be empathy. I do not mean becoming emotionally attached so you also feel what the other feels but that you understand and have compassion for them.
Not only is it beneficial to a team, but it is a wonderful feeling to empower others. People want to use their unique skills and abilities. By recognizing others’ skills and empowering them to use them, you are not only taking tasks off your plate, you are allowing others to live to their full potential.
There is no sense in micromanaging others. Yes, there may be a time for learning and instruction, but once skills have been learned, they should be used without someone looking over their shoulder.
Empowerment also speaks to trust. Once you have built trust in others, it is much easier to empower. This trust is built based on intuition, empathy, transparency, and loyalty.
Trust, however, is a two-way street. A leader cannot lead effectively if the team does not trust the leader. There must be steps taken to earn trust if trust is expected. Yes, I said earn. No matter the position or importance of the leader, trust must be earned.
It is important, now more than ever, with so many generational differences in the workplace, that collaboration exist. Everyone wants to feel he or she are a part of something and can contribute. A leader should not feel that everything rests on his or her shoulders. Collaborate with your team and everyone reaps the benefits. I believe no one person is better than another is. Collaboration is important on all levels.
To be continued in Episode 2.
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