Advance on Leadership
What does it take to become an effective leader?
Start with questions, not answers
A good leader has all the answers, right? In reality, thinking you know everything is a sure path to failure. Learning to ask good questions, and to listen, is key to successful leadership.
When you begin with smart questions, you will:
- Honestly acknowledge that the outcome is uncertain.
- Explore multiple possible paths to success.
- Make sure your team is solving the right problem.
Learn what motivates those around you
Leaders often assume that everyone is equally committed to a project’s success, and that they’re all in it for the same reasons—but that’s rarely the case. Effective leaders recognize that other team members have their own motivations.
When you treat team members as individuals, you will:
- Learn why they are participating.
- Motivate them through their own interests.
- Ensure that everyone is set up to succeed.
Play to your strengths
No one excels in all areas. By hiding your weaknesses, you remove opportunities for others to shine, which causes them to disengage.
When you know your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you will:
- Create an atmosphere of trust in your team.
- Encourage open sharing of ideas.
- Build a team where each member can exercise their complementary strengths.
Enable the excellence of others first
By taking on as much work as possible, you might think you are inspiring others by example. More likely, you’re conveying a lack of trust in your team.
When you give your teammates responsible roles, you will:
- Mobilize your team by demonstrating that you appreciate their capabilities.
- Allow them to become deeply involved, apply their strengths, and build confidence in one another.
- Create space for you to play to your own strengths.
Select a few challenging experiences
Belonging to multiple groups and accumulating titles is often mistaken for leadership. But depth is more important than breadth.
When you focus your attention on a few challenges, you will:
- Develop greater self-awareness.
- Have time to reflect on your experiences, which will inform how you approach your next challenge.
- Create compelling stories about risk-taking and how your leadership has improved as a result.
Experiment, observe, learn apply ...repeat
Leadership requires experience. But your failure rate will be higher without a process for improvement.
When you develop a method to observe your leadership, you will:
- Identify new opportunities that allow you to experiment with your leadership.
- Understand why you got the results that you did.
- Continually build on your successes.
How you lead → Why you lead
Can leadership be taught? Yes, most anyone can learn a set of skills. But it takes one key ingredient to complete the recipe.
When you understand your motivations, you will:
- Lead with a sense of personal mission.
- Inspire others with your passion and purpose.
- Mobilize others to action.
Build resilience through risk and failure
Is success just the absence of failure? Most leaders say they learn more from failures than from successes.
When you understand how to manage risks as a leader, you will:
- Learn from setbacks.
- Embrace failure as an opportunity to become more resilient.
- Open the door to true innovation.
Build a network of trusted advisors
Having a good team is vital, but sometimes it’s not enough. Many new challenges require expertise beyond your collective skills.
When you develop a set of trusted advisors, you will:
- Benefit from the specialized knowledge of others.
- Be prepared to act quickly when faced with new problems.
- Create mutual trust that benefits you and your peers.