Leadership: An Insider’s Guide

Leadership can be defined in many ways, but I view it as a succession of roles that one must take in an organization in order to develop a team. Since we are clarifying the terminology, I would characterize the success of the leader as being defined by the ability of the team to cohesively work together to strategize, implement and execute the shared vision of the team and leader.

The leader must first take on the role of Coach. As a coach you must lead by being the Energizer and Motivator for leading the charge, and leading the change. The change element (ability to lead organizational change) is the most difficult aspect of leadership and the change agent happens to be you as the leader. It will not be anyone other than you, and if you are really a pro, or have a bit of luck on your side, you might be assisted by those whom you have engaged and convinced of the worthiness to accept the proposed change and vision of the future state. As a coach, you are the team builder and you are responsible for the development and oversight of the growth of your direct reports. You also must determine the positions of your team members to best play to their natural instinctive skill sets. Many times you may have the right people, but they may be in the wrong positions and as a strong leader (coach) you must make position changes, substitutions and trades.

Once you have realized and surrounded yourself with the right team, your role significantly changes as a leader. Now your primary objective is to improve the team’s performance, play to their strengths, and to get them to be accountable. Accountable is defined as getting the team to do the right thing most of the time without your oversight. It is also critical that you are open and admitting of your teams weaknesses and that of your own. In fact, I encourage you to admit your own weaknesses to the team, and ask them to help and compliment you as the leader by working on those weaknesses with you. This will create the “trust” environment which allows people to be open, honest, and to thrive, primarily because you have given them the right and the responsibility to “call it as they see it”. Please don’t let this technique be thought of as building consensus, or building chaos. This is not a technique to teach everyone to think or act like you do either. In fact it encourages people to have an opinion, to search for improvements, to point out the flaws in the organization and maybe even strive to perfection to find the broken areas of your business and to take the correct measures to fix them on their own accord. In this process, you must coach the “trust” concept, and you yourself must “trust” that your team will make the right decisions given the fact that you have given them the right tools.

As the team progresses, so does your role as the leader. You can think of this phase as building the trust, but the bottom line in building trust is “allowing them to make mistakes” and more importantly getting them to think through their actions before they react or respond, knowing they will have to tell you why they did what they did in that situation. In this moment, you must encourage them as a team to learn from their mistakes, and figure out how they could do it better next time. Unfortunately the days of reprimand for mistakes does not work to build the organization. Help them and help yourself by taking a step back or a step out to see how they will handle situations without your coaching. Also remember that no one will do it the same way you do, and that this is a good thing!

The next phase as a leader is to recognize and reward the right behaviors. This is the fun part. Encourage each of the team members with your own leadership style. Let them know how they are doing and let them know what you are happy with in their performance consistently and regularly. This is not done at an annual performance appraisal. In fact if anything needs to wait to be discussed in an annual, then you have failed as a leader. Each team member should know in “real time” what you value and where they stand. You may find that once you lead changes through the team’s efforts, and not yours (picture the team pulling the rope in the same direction versus you pushing the rope), you will achieve the desired results with increased speed and team ownership. Remember that it is extremely important for you as the leader to be comfortable with change, and also to be open to the way that the team approaches the objective, because in the end, it is allowing them to accomplish the goals.

As a final note, I find it mission critical to communicate praise often, and work through negative situations through the postmortem process. The goal of the postmortem is to ask “what did we learn from this? , and what should we do differently the next time?”.

    Here are a few tips:
  1. Be excited about change, and let them see your excitement and interest
  2. Recognize and Reward the right behaviors
  3. Put the right people in the right positions
  4. Be willing to do any of the jobs that the team is doing
  5. Communicate well, and repeat often
  6. Put the Customer before the Team and “Put the Team before the Individual”
  7. Be willing to admit when you make a mistake
  8. Be relentless in your search for “perfection”
  9. Remember that the team is always watching you and looking to you as an example
  10. Acknowledge, Reward, and celebrate Success!

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