I started referring to this lens through which to look at leadership, in my last blog, From weak and insecure to Strong Leadership.
“What sort of leader do I want to be led by?” is a very good question to ask ourselves. Asking this question should give some very insightful clues as to the type of leader we need to become for others.
As I have asked myself this question and as I reflect on conversations with our team and other leaders I have surmised 5 basic conclusions.
We want a leader who is strong, who is attentive, who makes their expectations clear, who lets us know how we are doing and who lets us help them.
It is these 5 I want to explore in this blog, some of these thoughts will need to be expanded further in future blogs as they are significant topics in their own right.
If my surmise concerning these 5 characteristics is correct then this is significant because many of us leaders would probably spend more time :
– Trying to care for people (a good thing of course), and find it difficult to know how this works with being ‘strong’.
– We would generally assume our team are ok unless otherwise stated or it because obvious they are not. The thought of investing regularly into their world puts pressure on our time.
– We generally assume the role we are giving someone is relatively clear, so we overlook making sure, or we don’t want to patronise so we don’t cover what seems to be the basics of the role.
– We think feedback is confrontation so we avoid it.
– We don’t want to overburden people; or we think they are not ready; or we get too busy – so we don’t include them or delegate to them.
Ok so let’s try and unpick this and build a clear picture of the leader people are looking for, because it is the leader we are looking for.
A LEADER PLACES THEMSELVES IN OTHER PEOPLE’S SHOES
1. A LEADER IS STRONG
When we initially here the words ‘strong leader’ our first reaction may not be endearing, depending on your experience. But think about it. If we are going to rise to greater levels of strength, gifting, and ambition, what we want is someone who will inspire that. Someone who doesn’t exude their insecurities to me, but there determination, their resolve, their faith, their belief in me when I have failed or are struggling to break through a ceiling.
Whilst we want a leader who is empathetic, we don’t want our leader to be so sympathetic they are failing to inspire us to move on, get over it, be challenged to embrace our future.
Whilst we want a leader who is authentic, we don’t want them spilling their weaknesses on us all the time, but rather through their vulnerability showing us pathways to a stronger life.
For more on how to become a strong leader rather than weak, insecure or shallow see my blog From weak and insecure to Strong Leadership.
2. A LEADER IS ATTENTIVE
“We give attention by the frequency of our connection”
“We give attention by the quality of our connection”
Being present is the greatest influencer of all. We are there for big moments and small. The best discipleship is done on the go, allowing people to be in your world and you in there’s.
Listening is more influential than you may anticipate. We all love to be ‘heard’. For many of us leaders, having the patience to listen can be a challenge, but without it we undervalue the people we try and lead.
Communicate more than you think you need to, using all methods – telephone, sms, face to face, …
And encourage more often than you think you need to.
The big gap in leadership perception is this one – leaders think they are encouraging their teams, but teams often say they feel unnoticed. Its not that leaders aren’t necessarily encouraging their teams, its that they aren’t doing it enough for it to be truly felt.
People need YOU. Not primarily for your suggestions, information, and instructions. They simply need YOU in their world. AND you need them.
People’s lives should be moved by your leadership – not simply emotionally, but primarily in their lifestyle, actions and outcomes. This requires our attention.
ASKING QUESTIONS is the best way to help people ‘move’
“Telling you releases what I have to offer. But questioning you releases what you have to offer.” Craig Groeschel
But we will need to leave that for another blog!
3. A LEADER MAKES EXPECTATIONS CLEAR
The danger in leadership is, because we know it and we have done it, we assume others know it and know how to do it.
So we say “Could you join the welcome team” That’s it.
We have left that person unclear of the role and the expectations you have in that role.
People are asking to know what they’re shooting for; why and how.
Provide them with a role profile
Provide them a training cue card
Do show & tell training (John Finkelde has some useful thoughts on this here)
4. A LEADER IS A COACH
Believe it or not, I have found that people love to know exactly how they are doing.
The mistake we often make is assuming a person knows how well they are doing without being told. Or we assume they will treat feedback as confrontation.
People, usually, love feedback. They don’t see it as confrontation but a helpful measure on how well they are doing. We want to know whether we are doing what is expected of us.
Giving and receiving feedback maximises someone’s potential and fulfilment.
We are all blind to so much of how we are – we don’t know what we don’t know. We think that we are funny when maybe we are not!
90% of managers think they are in the top 10% of managers! Think about it for a minute … that means 80% are wrong about themselves.
Feedback loops are essential:
– Observe them –
Ask how they think they did (I will often ask them to tell me 2 things they would do again, 1 thing they would want to do differently or improve). By asking them for their observations very often they raise the same areas of feedback you would have given yourself.
– Give praise that is specific, that reinforces your expectations & DNA in the role – sometimes it might be unusual things (eg. what you were wearing)
– Focus on 1 main thing to improve upon.
If you are being given feedback – receive it – it is helping you. * The feedback we are tempted to get most defensive about is usually the feedback we most need to hear.
As a leader do not ignore what you are becoming aware of – in your team, your organisation, in a team member. Address the elephant in the room.
If it is hard to define, then use sentences like “I may not have read this right but I have been getting the impression that maybe …”
For more sensitive conversations like this choose the time and place well. Don’t talk about it in the ‘heat of the moment’ or in a public place. It is important your heart is right before starting such a conversation and the setting is right for the other person. Let’s not shy away from coaching our teams.
5. LEADERS ARE INCLUSIVE
We all want to know we are of use to our leaders. We want to help. Its the way we feel we have purpose on the team.
Include people, let them help you. By that I don’t just mean give them a job on the team, but let them help you. They want to.
When you let them do something that helps you personally, their sense of value rises, they come closer to your world and grow.
Don’t be afraid to stretch them deliberately. None of us got where we were without stretch.
And let’s not forget – we need them! A great leader is aware of what we don’t have. We just can’t and should not do it all on our own.