So, you think you want to be a leader… It has been said that a journey of thousand miles starts with a single step (Laozi). That’s a great way to start if you’re taking a walk, but I will challenge you with the paradigm “Every leadership journey starts with a single thought”. That’s right, a single thought. That single thought usually derives from the desire to want to make something better. And for a leader, that is wanting to make people’s lives better. That could be through a product, service, or a new way of thinking (perception transformation). If you are an aspiring leader or a leader that just seems to be stuck. There are some things you will need to focus on to succeed in your leadership journey.
First… You must stop focusing on your own success and focus on the success of others. A leader is only as successful as their followers. As I started my career in leadership, 25 years ago. I was totally focused on “my success”. I found myself wandering around with my own thoughts of what was better. Giving direction to people in expecting them execute my notes on what (I thought) I knew would make the company grow and succeed. What I didn’t know was the fact that not a single leader can succeed without followers. If you think your leading and you don’t have followers you’re just taking a walk. You’re taking a journey of thousand miles that is all uphill. When I got tired of leading an uphill battle (all by myself), and I began to reflect on what was the results of my actions. Through that reflection, I found no one was following. I found people were not only not following, but they were actually working against me. I firmly believe that was because I didn’t understand them. I understood what I wanted but I had no clue what they wanted or where they were coming from. That’s because I was trying to manage things and not lead people.
Second… My friend and mentor John Maxwell says it like this “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” The only way to influence people is if they know, like and trust you. You may be thinking to yourself, how do I get people to know, like and trust me? I can tell you that it’s not easy. You have to work on putting yourself in the backseat and putting the people you want to lead in front. You have to know where they’re coming from, if you want to get to where you want to go. What I mean by that is, you have to get to know your people. You have to know what’s going on in their lives to communicate with them in a way that they will eagerly follow your lead. There needs to be an emotional connection between a leader and the follower. The only way to do that is to know what’s going on in their personal lives. That’s the “Know”. Then, you need to be humble, you need to share not only in your personal story and successes, but most importantly your failures. People need to know that their leaders are human. They need to know that failure leads to success. That’s the “Like". Finally, your followers need to know that you lead with integrity. There is no other option, they need to know that you are all in. That’s if something does go wrong, that you got there back, you will take responsibility as the leader of that team or organization. When things don’t go as planned, and they know that you will not throw them under the bus. That’s the “Trust”
Third… It doesn’t matter what kind of leader you are or want to be. It doesn’t matter if your mother, father, housewife or lead a Fortune 500 organization. I do know that you have to begin with leading yourself. You have to first know, like and trust yourself. If you ever want to begin a journey in leadership. You will find that the most difficult person to lead in your life will be “You.”. From all your self-limiting beliefs to people you care about planting seeds of doubt in your mind. Your own thoughts can derail the best laid out plans for an organization or your life. Start today to get to know yourself and the people you lead. Begin to know, like and trust yourself and others today.
Here are the steps you need to take to start your journey:
I challenge you to take action now and begin your leadership journey. Focus on all the reasons why you can begin today. You will become what you focus on, talk about and expose yourself too. Think of your planned leadership journey as a camera’s telephoto lens. It will help bring things into focus and get you closer to the successful life and career that has no limits.