Sweeping organizational change and innovation don’t happen by magic. Strong leadership is required to guide people through periods of uncertainty and keep disruption to a minimum and production at acceptable levels. Are you up for the task?
Leadership is a gift given by those who follow. You can get a pretty good read on your own leadership success by taking an honest measure of the caliber of those who choose to follow you – choose being the operative word. Be honest. How many of those currently under your direction would likely seek your leadership outside of the work setting, say in a volunteer role? How about in a crisis situation? Who has sought you out as a mentor in the past, and what are they currently doing?
The path to truly great leadership is a lifelong quest. In 20 years of leading Media 1, I’ve had brief flashes of glory interspersed by many more times, when, looking back through the goggles of hindsight, I wished I had said or done something differently to prevent what turned out to be self-inflicted grief.
I have also been extraordinarily fortunate to be surrounded by strong and thoughtful colleagues and advisors who I can count on to tell me the truth as they see it, and this has no doubt sped my leadership journey. They have also helped me contain my blunders and missteps within a tolerable range, enabling me to recover and come back to lead another day.
Take an inventory
One of my trusted advisors, David Baker, has published a comprehensive list of Essential Leadership Qualities, along with brief definitions of what each trait looks like in practice. I encourage you to review the list and perform an honest assessment of your own leadership attributes. Enlist a trustworthy colleague to provide an honest reality check. Don’t focus solely on shortcomings. Take time to identify your strengths and pat yourself on the back for qualities you feel you already possess and act on regularly.
Play to your strengths
Once you have identified your strengths, you will better know where to focus your energy on improving your leadership approach. In the meantime, seek to recruit team members who already possess strengths you don’t to fill in where you may come up short. Look for people who are hard wired for those attributes — they will be able see around your blind spot. They also will be able to focus on other concerns, and can advise you in areas you might not otherwise consider.
Help others reach their potential
And here, with a touch of irony, we unlock one of the keys to enticing others to bestow on you the gift of leadership: rise to your strengths, and pave the way for your followers to exercise theirs. When you surround yourself with good people, trust their input, and help them reach their full potential, they will follow you to the ends of the earth, helping your organization to change, innovate, grow – and prosper.