Are You the Leader You'd Want to Follow?
This article urges leaders to self-reflect and gauge if they embody qualities worth following, underscoring the value of authenticity and growth.
I was recently having a conversation with another leader about some of their current struggles as a leader. As we discussed their current issues, I started to uncover some of the root causes to their problems. As we further discussed, it became apparent to me, that they were the root cause of their major challenges and issues. As we wrapped up the conversation, I simply asked “Are You the Leader You'd Want to Follow?” He looked at me puzzled and asked “What do you mean?” I simply answered “Are you displaying the type of leadership qualities and behaviors that you look for in a leader?” For those of you who know me, know that I am a candid person, so I did not hold back. “As we talked about your issues, I realized that you are the cause of your issues and a lot of them can be resolved if you adopted effective leadership practices.” So, I pose this same question to you, “Are You the Leader You'd Want to Follow?”
“Are You the Leader You'd Want to Follow?”
This is a question that you may have never been posed with but it is indeed a very important one. Have you ever asked yourself how your team feels about your leadership? If the roles were reversed and you were in the shoes of your team members, would you feel inspired by your own actions? Would your words motivate you to push through challenges? And when the going gets tough, would you feel supported and understood by someone like you? It's not just about leading; it's about how you make people feel, how you drive them towards a vision, and how you stand by them through thick and thin.
I am sure we all have attended leadership sessions where we’ve compared the “good leader vs. the bad leader.” I’ve even facilitated many leadership training sessions where we explore this very concept. We’ve identified a slew of qualities and behaviors that are used to categorize leaders and say “yes, I want to follow a leader who exudes those “good qualities.” Now, honestly how often do you take a step back and analyze your own leadership style based on those identified qualities?
Taking the time to self-reflect is critical to being a great leader as it helps you to identify areas that need sharpening. This is not a one-time event; as you must constantly evaluate your leadership effectiveness and adjust appropriately. One of the things that you can do to self-reflect is the mirror test. Imagine standing in front of a mirror looking into the eyes of the leader staring back at you. You are looking at the real, unfiltered version of yourself. Sometimes, it might reveal a confident leader who's crushing goals left and right, leading and supporting their teams to new heights. Other times, it might show someone who's a bit overworked and overwhelmed, making a few missteps, frustrated by the constant demands. But guess what? Both versions are okay. The key is to recognize and embrace them. This is the "Mirror Test." It's not about vanity; it's about vulnerability and authenticity.
Leadership isn't a one-size-fits-all. It's a journey filled with highs, lows, twists, and turns. But by regularly checking in with yourself, you can navigate this journey with more clarity and purpose.
How did I handle that challenging situation last week?
Did I communicate that well when assigning that task?
Did I provide them with the feedback needed to move forward?
Did I truly listen to my team's concerns during our last meeting?
What can I do better tomorrow?
The "Mirror Test" isn't about being overly critical or giving yourself a hard time. It's about growth, understanding, and, most importantly, being real with yourself. Because when you're genuine with yourself, you can be genuine with your team. And that, my friend, is pure leadership gold. So, the next time you pass by a mirror, pause for a moment. Look deep into your reflection and ask, "Am I being the leader I want to follow?" Your reflection might just have some enlightening answers.
Let’s go back for a moment to the “good leader vs. the bad leader” exercise and take a quick moment to determine the key qualities that people look for in leaders they’d follow. You may want to take a moment and do this right now. Grab a piece of paper and write down the qualities that make someone a good leader. I will provide you with a list of what I believe to be the top qualities of a good leader. These are not ranked in any particular order as you may find one to be more important than others, as this list is not exhaustive.
Integrity is by far one of the biggest leadership qualities that any good leader must possess. It also must be present within the overall organization. Leaders at all levels must hold fast to leading with integrity in every decision and interaction. Integrity is about you being honest and having strong moral principles, such as truthfulness and fairness. It's about doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Leaders with integrity are often trustworthy, responsible, and consistent in their actions and beliefs.
Effective leadership goes hand in hand with effective communication. It’s like love and marriage. Like a horse and carriage. You can’t have one without the other. The most effective leaders are those who can communicate well in various situations, whether it's sharing information, motivating their team, or providing guidance. It's important for leaders to be able to listen well and communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds, roles, and experiences. The way you communicate within an organization can greatly influence your teams, driving and reaching business's goals.
Delegation is a fundamental duty of a leader, yet doing it right can be challenging. At times it can be hard for you to let go and just do it all yourself, which ultimately leads to burnout. You need to start seeing delegation as a means to empower your team members, foster collaboration, grant independence, and enhance decision-making. It's essential to delegate the right tasks to the right people and ensure they have the resources and knowledge to complete them successfully. This is why it’s important to know your teams’ strengths and opportunities. Successful leaders cultivate trust within their teams by delegating efficiently.
Empathy is about understanding and sharing someone else's feelings. It involves recognizing emotions in others, being able to "put oneself in another's shoes," and responding with an appropriate emotion to someone else's feelings. Empathy goes beyond sympathy, which is simply feeling sorry for someone else. Empathy involves a deeper connection and understanding. As a leader, this is critically important because it helps you build trust with your team. When you show empathy, you communicate better, solve problems more easily, increase understanding, and create an inclusive environment. Empathy is a vital leadership skill that fosters trust, promotes effective communication, and helps in building strong teams. An empathetic leader is more likely to have a motivated, committed, and high-performing team.
Self-awareness is your ability to recognize your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. It's an introspective understanding of how your feelings and actions align with internal values and its effect on others. Self-awareness is pivotal for leaders. Firstly, it aids in making unbiased decisions. Secondly, it ensures emotional reactions are in check, preventing rash decisions. Thirdly, it fosters empathy, allowing leaders to create supportive environments. Additionally, it encourages openness to feedback, promoting personal growth. Lastly, it cultivates authenticity, building trust within teams. In essence, a self-aware leader is better equipped to guide their team effectively and ensure organizational success.
Consistency is crucial for effective leadership as it fosters trust and builds credibility among your team members. When you act predictably, upholding the same values and standards no matter the situation, your team members feel secure and confident in their roles. You’re not only setting clear expectations, reducing confusion and ensuring alignment towards common goals, but also serving as a role model, setting the tone for the entire organization. In times of uncertainty, a consistent leader provides stability, guiding the team through challenges and ensuring overall success. Let me tell you, no one follows an inconsistent leader!
Speaking up in the workplace can be challenging, sometimes even terrifying, whether it's to share a fresh and new perspective, give feedback to a colleague, or raise an issue to higher-ups. Having courage as a leader helps you make tough calls, even if they're not the most popular. It means you stand firm and do what's right, which builds trust with your team. Being courageous also means you're open to trying new things and learning from any mistakes along the way. Plus, when your team sees you facing challenges head-on, it motivates them to step up too. In short, a courageous leader sets the tone for a strong, forward-moving business.
Responsibility is ensuring that you act with integrity and be accountable for your actions. This means that the buck stops with you! That you are not pointing the finger or blaming others when results are not achieved. This is a critical trait for you as a leader, as it establishes trust, sets behavioral standards for the team, and guides informed decision-making. A responsible leader not only boosts team morale by acknowledging efforts and addressing challenges but also shapes a positive organizational culture. Embracing responsibility ensures that you can effectively guide your team towards success while upholding the organization's values and objectives.
Influence in leadership is about guiding and motivating people without having to use positional power or manipulation. Influence is built on trust and respect. Good leaders use influence to clear roadblocks, facilitate collaboration, adapt to changes, and empower team members to take charge when needed. Influential leaders know that manipulation is not effective as genuine influence stands apart from manipulation and must be approached with authenticity and clarity. It hinges on emotional intelligence and the foundation of trust.
Reliability is a crucial attribute for a good leader, as it embodies trustworthiness and consistency in keeping commitments and delivering results. Reliable leaders build trust within their teams, providing stability and predictability. By setting a standard of reliability, you encourage your team members to follow suit, fostering a culture of dependability. This reliability not only enhances team cohesion but also earns you credibility with various stakeholders, enabling them to influence decisions and drive positive outcomes in the organization.
Here is the reality. You may think that you are this great, amazing leader who communicates well, inspires their team, delegates tasks effectively, provides constructive feedback, and supports your team, but if your team does not see you that way, then it really doesn’t matter what you think or believe. Their perspective of you as a leader wins. Your job is to ensure that your actions line up with their perspective, and that can be done by implementing a feedback loop.
So, how do you make the most of this feedback loop?
Open the Channels
Creating an environment of open communication within your team is paramount to effective leadership. It begins with leading by example, demonstrating your willingness to listen and share. Break down communication barriers, encourage diverse perspectives, and actively listen to your team members. Make them feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, whether positive or constructive. Foster a culture where feedback is viewed as an opportunity for growth, not criticism, and maintain confidentiality to build trust. This commitment to open dialogue can lead to a more engaged, motivated, and loyal team, aligning with your goal of becoming the leader you'd want to follow.
Regularly scheduling private, one-on-one meetings with your team members is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. These intimate discussions offer a safe space for candid conversations, where team members can share their thoughts and concerns openly. These meetings also encourage the flow of feedback and allow leaders to uncover valuable insights and suggestions that can increase their leadership capabilities. By investing in one-on-one interactions, you not only demonstrate your commitment to your team members' growth but also acquire the information needed to tailor your leadership approach.
Anonymous surveys and suggestion boxes can be incredibly useful for collecting honest feedback from your team. When team members can share their thoughts and concerns without revealing their identities, it creates a safe environment for candid expression. This often reveals blind spots and diverse perspectives regarding your leadership style. These tools promote thoughtful reflection, inclusivity, and foster a culture of trust and openness. However, their real value depends on your commitment to taking action based on the feedback received. If you don't follow through on implementing the feedback, your team may feel unheard and that their input was disregarded, potentially undermining their motivation and trust in the process.
When your team members share their thoughts, be open and receptive, paying attention to nonverbal cues like body language and tone of voice. Reflect on what they're saying, ask questions to clarify, and show empathy by understanding their perspective. It's crucial to validate their feelings and summarize what you've heard to ensure you're on the same page. Avoid getting defensive and view feedback as a chance to improve. By actively listening during feedback sessions, you build trust and create an open, constructive environment where your leadership style can adapt to better suit your team's needs.
Feedback can be a mirror too, reflecting aspects of your leadership style you might not have noticed. It's not always easy to hear constructive criticism, but remember, it's a gift that can help you become the leader your team truly deserves.
So, you've asked yourself the tough questions, actively listened to your team, and received candid feedback. Now, it's time to roll up your sleeves and take concrete, actionable steps toward becoming the kind of leader you'd want to follow. Here's your roadmap:
It involves assessing your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, leveraging your strengths, and actively addressing your weaknesses. Acknowledging and working on biases, whether related to gender, race, or other factors, is also critical for fostering fairness and equity. Self-aware leaders are more open to feedback and are committed to continuous improvement. This practice not only enhances your leadership effectiveness but also strengthens trust within your team. Self-awareness is not a one-time task but an ongoing journey toward becoming a more inspirational and influential leader, setting the stage for the development of other essential leadership qualities.
This is an absolute non-negotiable element of effective leadership. You must invest in your leadership education to stay relevant and adaptable. This commitment to ongoing learning not only equips you with the tools to navigate changing environments but also fosters a growth mindset that enhances problem-solving abilities and resilience. To embrace continuous learning, you should attend relevant workshops and seminars, read books and articles extensively, seek mentorship, explore online courses, engage in peer learning, and, crucially, apply your newfound knowledge in your leadership roles. By doing so, you not only enhance your own skills but also inspire a culture of learning within your teams and organizations.
Engage with Your Team
Connecting with your team on a personal level is a game-changer for effective leadership. It's about showing that you genuinely care about each team member, not just as a worker but as an individual with their own goals and challenges. By understanding their career aspirations and struggles, you can adjust your leadership style to suit their specific needs. This boosts their motivation, keeps their spirits high, and makes communication and problem-solving smoother. You can do this by having one-on-one meetings, helping them advance in their careers, and celebrating personal achievements. In essence, it's about creating an environment where team members feel appreciated and heard, which leads to stronger bonds and a more united and successful team.
Act on Feedback
When your team provides feedback, it's a valuable opportunity for you to grow and improve. Taking their input seriously, regardless of whether it's positive or constructive, is a sign that you respect their concerns and aspirations. Identifying specific areas for improvement, creating an actionable plan, and implementing changes demonstrate your commitment to their well-being and the success of the team. It's crucial to view feedback as a roadmap to personal and professional growth, fostering open dialogue, and creating a culture of trust. Your actions in response to feedback speak volumes, reassuring your team that their voices matter and that their input leads to positive change, ultimately enhancing team morale and motivation.
Lead by Example
Leading by example means more than just talking about values like integrity, empathy, and hard work; it involves embodying these qualities in your everyday actions. By consistently demonstrating the values you hold dear, you build trust, inspire commitment, foster empathy, set high standards, and cultivate a learning culture within your team. It's about authenticity and acknowledging imperfections while striving for improvement. When your team witnesses you living out these values, they're not just following a leader; they're following a role model they respect and admire. Your actions become a powerful source of inspiration and a driving force behind the team's success.
Effective leadership is closely tied to clear and straightforward communication. Your ability to convey your messages clearly and openly builds trust and ensures everyone is on the same page. This means listening actively to your team, promoting open conversations, and being approachable for discussions. Transparency is vital, especially when decisions impact the team. Constructive feedback, customized communication styles, and empathy are all important aspects of effective communication. By mastering these skills and nurturing open dialogue within the team, you can create an environment of trust, understandin, and collaboration, ultimately boosting productivity and team cohesion.
Celebrate Wins and Learn from Losses
Acknowledging and celebrating successes, no matter how small, is essential for boosting team morale and reinforcing the value of hard work. Whether it's a major milestone or a routine task done exceptionally well, taking a moment to appreciate these victories goes a long way. Equally important is the ability to view setbacks and failures as opportunities for growth. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, you should encourage your teams to analyze the situation, identify underlying issues, and brainstorm solutions. Demonstrating a positive response to failure by taking responsibility and focusing on improvement sets a powerful example for the team, fostering a culture of resilience and innovation. In the quest to become a leader worth following, celebrating wins and learning from losses are pivotal steps toward creating a motivated, empowered, and continuously improving team.
Adapt and Evolve
Being open to change and able to go with the flow is what makes great leaders stand out. We know as leaders that things change all the time - like business goals, technology, and what customers want. Leaders who can handle these changes well inspire their teams to do the same. When you adapt, you show your team that it's okay to come up with new ideas and handle challenges calmly. Plus, it helps you make decisions quickly and recover from tough times. So, if you want to be a leader people respect, embrace change and show your team that it's all part of the journey to success.
Empower Your Team
This means you are giving your team the trust and freedom to make their own decisions and take full ownership of their work. This helps to boost team morale because your team members feel like you believe in their abilities. They start to take personal responsibility for their tasks, which drives them to do better. Plus, it encourages innovation since team members are free to come up with their own creative solutions. This builds trust between you and your team, creating a positive work environment. To do this, you need to provide clear guidelines, support when necessary, and regularly check in with your team. By giving your team more control, you'll see improved morale, more creative ideas, and personal growth for everyone involved.
Taking time for self-reflection is crucial for strong leadership. You should regularly set aside moments to think about how you’re doing, learn from your experiences, and be willing to listen to feedback from people you trust. This helps you make necessary changes to your leadership style, set clear goals, and keep an eye on your progress. Being consistent with self-reflection is essential because it helps you keep up with how your teams and organizations are changing. In the end, leaders who use self-reflection are more ready to handle the ever-changing business world effectively and with resilience.
Becoming the leader you'd want to follow is an ongoing journey. It requires dedication, self-awareness, and a commitment to growth. Remember, leadership isn't about perfection; it's about continuous improvement and creating an environment where both you and your team can thrive. By taking these steps, you'll not only enhance your leadership effectiveness but also inspire those around you to become the best versions of themselves. Your journey begins now!