I had a soccer coach in high school that was a bull of a woman. Like an Army Drill Sargent with a bunch of lazy new recruits she would yell, scream, and scowl like she was eternally disappointed in everything we did. At times we despised her, and cursed her presence. But she knew her sport inside and out and regardless of her military style leadership method, we truly respected her as she turned that lazy group of recruits into a formidable team.
For a long period of time I thought that is what a good leader was, overtly passionate, hard as stone, and never accepted anything but the absolute best. Fear was your weapon, punishment was indiscriminate and came swiftly without hesitation. I was wrong.
Years later, after college I met my current mentor, a serial entrepreneur and CEO whose leadership style was almost the exact opposite of what I expected from a successful leader. He led by example. He didn’t just ask the people around him to make things happen, he had no problem pulling on a pair of gloves or flying across the globe to move the business forward. When he spoke, he shared strong beliefs in the mission of the company and the team. He not only made room for failure, but expected everyone around him to try to reach beyond themselves and fail regularly. He gave his power away, and put his faith in the team around him, guiding them, and mentoring them toward both personal and business success.
Despite the difference in methods, both of these leadership styles contained an essential requirement of leadership. Influence. Ineffective leaders simply do not have any influence with the people they wish to lead. Usually, they lack influence because they lack position, lack permission, or lack production. Many think that having the right position or title is essential for leadership, but permission and production are far more important. Without permission and production, there will be no position.
People around you will not give you permission to lead if you do not have the personal connection, the buy-in, or the relationships that makes people want to follow you. Without permission you simply cannot lead. To gain permission you must develop trusting relationships with the team you wish to lead and demonstrate personal interest in each and every individual’s personal and career success.
Concurrently, leaders must be able to demonstrate results. The people around the leader must be able to point to areas of credible production directly associated with the leader’s actions. When work gets done and goals are achieved morale goes up, momentum builds, and the level of leadership begins to rise. Production creates respect for the leader’s expertise and credibility.
Individuals that obtain permission and demonstrate production will often find themselves in a leadership position even without an official title. But when the time comes, the title will simply be a formal acknowledgment of the leadership level that already exists.
Influence is good, and a minimum requirement of leadership. But, inspiration combined with influence is what makes great leaders, great companies, and great brands. Great leaders inspire us to believe in the potential, believe in the opportunity, and believe in a better version of ourselves. This is the difference between good leadership, and world changing leadership.
How to inspire others is a complex conundrum of human psychology. But, it can be boiled down to some very simple practices.
Clarity of Why – The leader must be able to provide a clear picture of a greater future and over-communicate the value and purpose of pursuing it as a team.
Lead by Example – Maintain a fair and principled set of values that cannot be influenced by outside forces or levels of financial success or failure.
Develop Others – Expect more of those around you and create an environment that supports and highly values the pursuit of personal growth and mentorship.
Take a Stand – Draw a line in the sand that separates those who believe in and are part of the mission and those that are not. This line should clearly differentiate the clients, partners, and team members that you work with.
Eat Last – Put the company, employees, and clients before yourself when it comes to acknowledgment and financial rewards.
I am deeply indebted to my mentor for the valuable leadership lessons he has taught me. Grow your leadership skills and your business will grow along with you.
Recommended Reading –
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni