As you are growing in your career it can be easy sometimes to look at a leader and think how they have arrived. They put in the hard work and now get to drive the vision and the work in the ways they want it to go. For some the main motivation for wanting to lead is the perception they can do what they want and not get interference. Not only would some of these motivations be less than altruistic, much of it is simply be myth. No matter what your position is you are still answering and reacting to someone and the thought that you can do whatever you want will inevitably lead to disastrous results. Bottom line is leadership and influence come with responsibility. Not just to deliver results as many might think but to steward resources well; and the primary resource is the people you lead. Stop and think about it, among the largest (if not the single largest) line item a company has will be the salary and benefits line. One’s orientation to that line item becomes paramount to their leadership mentality. Is this line item seen as an expense or an investment?
To best grow your influence (and I would argue your long-term results) one must realize leadership comes with a commitment to those whom you will lead. Three important ones stand out.
Serve first: Hubris is a time bomb. One can get away for a while serving their own egos but eventually it blows up. The wise leader immediately takes an orientation of servant-mindfulness. While this includes the basics of respect toward others it goes beyond just this. As the leader you have the power to help remove barriers and frustrations they face. Proactive and intentional conversations where the leader seeks to learn what in the processes keeps them from doing their best work will create trust when the leaders show they can act upon information. Not every obstacle can be removed but understanding what is in place will add patience when things move more slowly than the leader would like. A serve-first mentality will open up the lines of communication in valuable ways and help move the work forward.
Candor is imperative: Another mentality to utilize is that of a coach. The best coaches are not afraid of hard conversations because they know their job is to help players and the team to improve. That can’t happen without direct conversation. In my experience I learned I had to make a mental sift in that I could face a short, hard conversation now or I could deal with the consequences of not having the conversation for months. I can also share from experience that even though the conversations about someone’s performance or workplace behavior was difficult to start the end result has been thankfulness on their behalf we had it. Most everyone wants to do their best and they can’t fix things they don’t know about. Although they always bring a bit of apprehension candid, yet caring, conversations will usually increase trust between people.
Grow them to lead: Some leaders bring with them an insecurity that if they grow someone this person might ultimately outperform them. This is not only short-sighted, it’s a lack of integrity in regard to the work a leader has been asked to lead. A fundamental part of a leader’s mentality has to be a commitment to grow others. Understanding how people can and want to grow, what they want to learn more about, and how they would like to see their career go adds firepower to the leader’s ability to delegate and problem-solve. There comes a day in most leader’s lives where the satisfaction from their work comes less from the work itself and more from those in whom they have invested. Bottom lines are important but a large crop of those you have helped grow and succeed will add an enriched satisfaction.
Leadership is not the destination as many might be tempted to think. It is simply an ongoing part of the journey as one seeks to shift commitments toward serving and developing those whom they lead.