Today, more than ever, we need leaders. Leaders in our personal lives, and more so, in our places of work. Leaders who stand out and can be trusted, not ones who just talk the talk.
As kids, my sister Kendra and I were in several groups such as Indian Princesses, which was a program for daughters and dads. My chosen name for this group was “Tigerlily” because "Peter Pan" was my favorite book as a child and, because our last name was Herring, their names were “Big Fish” and “Little Fish.” We were also in 4H for many years, Acorn Acres to be exact.
I look back fondly at those years, and I realize our parents were not just trying to keep us busy (we didn’t have a television growing up), but they were also getting us involved to learn important life skills, such as public speaking, meeting deadlines, project management and leading people.
My first opportunity to lead a group came in my late 20s. I do not think I was an appalling leader, and I do not think those whom I was leading or attempting to lead seriously disliked me (well, perhaps there were a few), but as a young leader, being effective wasn’t my goal. My goal as a new manager was to boss people around and make them listen. I laugh at how wrong I was in thinking this is how a leader acts.
I found a piece by Kathryn Sandford who sums up mistakes made as a leader in a way that makes sense, and it is something I wish I had read two decades ago. I would like to share these with those who are leaders now and leaders who have not yet emerged.
Leaders are courageous. Leaders are not afraid to face the messy moments and will face up to their mistakes. They are prepared to be vulnerable and they know they don’t have all the answers. They are agents of change and they are future-oriented thinkers, dedicated to doing what ever it takes to get there.
Leaders know who they are. Leaders know their self worth, understand their own emotions and recognize the impact on self and others.
Leaders know the difference between the role of a leader and a manager. A leader's job is to inspire, encourage and create value. A manager’s role is to get things done – to organize and control a group of people to get tasks completed in order to accomplish a goal. Inspiration and influence separate leaders from managers, not power and control. Leaders accept they are always learning. They are always growing and reaching to improve the way they lead.
Leaders know they can never do it alone. Leaders only become successful through the support of others. Leaders take people with them. To gain the respect, trust and loyalty of people, leaders connect with people and are great relationship builders.
Leaders are excellent communicators; they motivate and inspire people through good communication. Leaders also understand that communication is a two-way process and they will always seek feedback and clarification from people to ensure that everyone understands what is being communicated and what the leader is asking of them.
Leaders are not afraid of commitment; they understand that success is a process and that reaching the vision and achieving the goals doesn’t happen over night. It takes time and it involves a lot of work, determination and commitment to keep going.
Take these tips and use them as a foundation if you aspire to become a great leader or even if you are a leader now. Let this be your launchpad to greatness.