Leadership isn’t always rewarding. It can feel like a bottomless pit of problem solving and adult-sitting. Leadership is exhausting, repetitive, and requires a constant stretch of your emotional and intellectual skills. But it doesn’t mean leadership isn’t rewarding; on the contrary, often the things we struggle with yield the biggest return.
In my upcoming book Management Mess to Leadership Success, I outline 30 challenges to help you become a leader you would follow. The information is organized into three leadership mandates: lead yourself, lead others, and get results. Are you ready to take the challenge?
Lead Yourself Challenge: Demonstrate Humility
Has your lack of humility ever limited your perspective or lessened your influence as a leader? Would you know if it had?
Leaders who fail to demonstrate humility often find themselves leaning toward arrogance and seeking outside validation. They rarely listen to anyone but themselves and thus miss opportunities to learn and course-correct. They often turn conversations into a competition and feel the need to “one-up” others and have the final say.
When you learn to embrace humility, you feel more comfortable because you know who you are. You can let go of the fear of making mistakes or showing weakness. To quote Dr. Stephen R. Covey, “Humble leaders are more concerned with what is right than being right.”
- Pick an initiative you’re leading or participating in.
- Identify someone whose perspective on the initiative is different from yours.
- Schedule time to listen to their perspective. When their opinions differ substantially, exercise the patience and respect not just to listen but to genuinely consider their point of view.
- What did you learn that might measurably improve the initiative? The relationship? Your leadership style?
- Become more comfortable—even confident—in not having all the answers yourself. This is a strength, not a weakness.
Lead Others Challenge: Place the Right People in the Right Roles
How many people on your team are in the right roles? Do you need to adjust?
Building a winning team can be one of your greatest legacies as a leader, but it’s rarely recognized or rewarded in real time. In fact, you’ll likely get credit for it only after the team disbands or you’ve moved on.
Successful leaders embrace the art of matchmaking and introducing the right people to the right roles. Here are some ways to do so:
- Identify someone’s true passions and strengths so you can align those to your business needs.
- Use questions to assess whether someone could play a different role.
- Seek others’ ideas about your observations and opinions.
- Have courageous conversations to address situations around personality, emotional maturity, self-awareness, and so forth. (Too many leaders skip this step.)
- Exercise the courage to remedy any misalignments.
Get Results Challenge: Create Vision
Have you articulated an inspiring vision so your people choose to volunteer their best?
Creating a vision means defining where your team is going and how they will get there. It’s not unusual for a leader, after a grand pronouncement, to sit back and assume their vision will materialize. In truth, many bold strategies never achieve liftoff because team members were confused, uninspired, or had a “this too shall pass” attitude.
No leader has ever overcommunicated an inspiring vision. Worthy aspirational projects and initiatives typically fail because leadership wrongly thought they had been sufficiently translated throughout the team or organization—or, in some cases, they lost interest themselves.
- Draft a team vision by answering these questions:
-- What contributions can our team make to the organization’s mission and vision?
-- If our team could make one extraordinary contribution over the next one to five years, what would it be?
- Take a moment to remember an inspiring vision that resonated with you. What about it made it personally motivating and powerful?
- Create a vision for your team by articulating not only the why and the what but the how. The how may well be the key that brings success.