Today is the day! Today is the day that you’re going to do it: From here on out, you’re not just going to manage, you’re also going to lead! Yes! YES! YEEEEESSSS—wait—where do you start? I mean, you came for the same reason I did: To be a better leader. But, we can’t just say an incantation and suddenly we’re the leader that everyone hopes for. No, we need the right traits and skills. Fear not, though, I have three things that you need to get started on your journey today. We’ll call them my leadership survival pack. Disclaimer: The handful of attributes I’m going to briefly discuss won’t solely, of their own power, make you a leader, but they’re a great start!
Honestly, scholars don’t agree on exactly what attributes define a leader—an opening point, for example, that John Adair, author of How To Grow Leaders, makes in his book (which I don’t recommend reading by-the-by…great information but really really REALLY boring). In fact, leaders have myriad traits and skills that make them successful. While each of us must find our unique leadership niche and improve on it over time, the three things I identify below are three universal requirements to be a leader. No matter what book or blog you read; what ted talk, speech, or podcast you listen to; or what historical or modern greats you model yourself after, these three things will always be the go-to items in your survival pack. Okay, enough of me running off at the mouth. Here are the three things you need to start being a leader:
First item in the pack is integrity. Your subordinates, your direct reports, your peers, and your superiors must know you’re trustworthy. They need to know above all things that they can count on you, that you’ll have their backs…and not just when everything is hunky-dory but also when human waste particles have hit the proverbial air circulating apparatus. Leadership is a relationship; it forms a bond between all parties involved. And, like any relationship, a lack of integrity will doom it to failure.
The second item you’ll need are expectations that you can quickly provide both in conversation and in written communication. I recommend establishing three that are easy to remember. You need to layout an explicit blueprint to your personnel so they know where you stand. Then, decide what success looks like with each. Make sure your expectations are clear and realistic too. When your expectations are clear, your personnel know exactly how to conduct themselves, and when they don’t conduct themselves appropriately, you can address them accordingly. To ensure that each expectation is realistic, let your subordinates, peers, and seniors ask questions about them and offer feedback. Too often, managers operate with silent expectations. Every one of us has been a victim of a silent expectation ambush—you know when the boss has an expectation but never told you, and when you don’t meet the expectation, the boss explodes. You just stand there at ground-zero blinking…blankly…wondering why he or she just never told you ahead of time.
The last (but not at all final) item you’ll need to get started is consistency. You can’t decide to have integrity today but then decide that tomorrow you don’t have time for it. Your personnel, your peers, and your superiors have to know that whatever you start you’ll finish. They also need to be able to count on you for constancy and stability. If you can’t bring any of that, your personnel will never be able to sustain change and uncertainty. And, if you can’t bring your personnel consistency, what good are you to them?
That’s it! Those are the three things you need to get started today. Go out there and make a difference. I’m going to give everything I’ve got today, you should too.
Next post, we’ll briefly explore the historical context of leadership and discuss some of the premier leadership scholars (in my opinion) that history has offered us all. After that, we’ll be able to deep-dive into the many conventional and controversial facets of leadership. Stay hungry!