One Essential Key To Becoming a Better Leader
You don’t become a better leader by thinking about becoming a better leader. You become a better leader by test driving untested behaviors.
- Lead a meeting in a new way. Try leading from the side of the table, rather than the head, for example.
- Point out an inconsistency, when you prefer to ignore it.
- Ask a dumb question. “This might be a dumb question, but ….”
- Practice transparency when you prefer to keep things to yourself.
- Gently say what you see when you prefer to turn away.
You can’t think your way into better leadership.
Give yourself reflection points based on actual – not anticipated – behaviors. Don’t sit under a tree contemplating who you would like to become. Try something new.
An hour spent test driving new leadership behaviors is more useful than an hour spent thinking about being an authentic leader.
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” (Often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but more likely a quote of Witold Marian Gombrowicz.)
Self-reflection – after taking action – is more useful than introspection before.
Energy goes up when you try something new. The important thing is to reflect after taking action more than before.
Leadership coaching often brings leaders to the point of stopping ineffective behaviors and trying something new.
- What did you do?
- How did it work?
- What did you learn?
- What ineffective behavior would you like to stop?
- What new behavior would you like to try?
- Plunge yourself into new projects and activities. (re-define your job)
- Interact with very different kinds of people. (build new relationships)
- Experiment with unfamiliar ways of getting things done. (work on your self)
In times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow action and experimentation – not vice versa. *Herminia Ibarra
What new – perhaps awkward – leadership behavior might you test drive today? (Think about something you’re avoiding.)
How might you maximize a new relationship to better your leadership?
“In times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow action and experimentation – not vice versa.”
Hmm. my team is transitioning into a project dealing with highly unstable, highly reactive (spontaneously explosive!) chemicals. We are uncertain how we will have to modify our practices to deal with these.
On the whole I think we will lead with thinking and introspection – I don’t have enough staff to backfill the holes that might arise from action and experimentation going wrong!
Thanks Mitch. Your comment made me laugh – not because I think you’re wrong.
There’s always some logical push back to the idea of taking action before you have a perfect plan. Flying airplanes, doing brain surgery, and dealing with explosive chemicals come to mind. 🙂
To grow as a leader involves adding new tools.
Like any change they will feel uncomfortable at first, but hang in there.
I practice transparency and I enjoy asking the “dumb questions” as you indicated above.
Another technique I use to identify future leaders to develop is announce a dumb idea…we are going to _________, thoughts? My future leaders will challenge that idea in the meeting or behind closed doors. Next meeting I share with the team…Scott challenged me on my idea to ______ and he was right, we will not do that. It reinforces the healthy culture that openly discusses things that matter with no fear. Second it encourages others on the team to challenge me when something that impacts their area does not make sense.
Here’s a challenge for your readers…have a meeting and suggest a bad idea, we are going to _______. If no one challenges you , you have a much bigger problem to solve.
This too will feel uncomfortable but I have used it many times and it helps your team feel safe discussing things that matter.More disturbing will be the political leaches who come to you and say what a smart idea it was because you said it. These team members add no value.
Thanks Mark. Wow! I love your suggestion. I’ll add that perhaps the dumb idea might turn out to be a smart idea, with some work from the team. 🙂
The thing I really enjoyed is the idea of complimenting someone in front of the team when they challenge you. Powerful.
Practice authentically connecting with your team – pick someone and really take the time to get to know them – learn their story – where have they come from, what have they gone through, what is it that they have going on at home and in the community, what are they trying to achieve through their job / work — Now relate that to something in your life -create an “authentic connection”- this will give you an ability to truly empathize with them … try it with a few others … once you start to nail it you can inspire and motivate your team to a common goal —
Thanks Colin. Wonderful suggestion. This should take some leaders outside their comfort zone! 🙂
After reading your post (action) I engaged in some reflection about the effective leaders I have known, and could not think of a single one who did not have a bias toward taking action, especially in uncertain times. Often the “paralysis of analysis” trumps actions when there s no strong leader, and much opportunity is lost in the gap. Excellent approach in “What ineffective behavior would you like to stop?”. We have to give up bad habits to make room for better ones. Spot on, once again!
Thanks Jim. Your sentence…”We have to give up bad habits to make room for better ones,” really helps me. It’s amazingly difficult to give up on something that worked at one time but has outlived it’s usefulness. Maybe one way is to listen to the frustration, rather than ignoring it. Cheers
Love the message. Get out of your comfort zone! Sometimes when trying new things the results will be negative, but that’s not necessarily bad either. I learned some of my biggest lessons by making mistakes. You can’t make mistakes by staying comfortable. Visit http://www.bossinthemiddle.com where we are building a community of middle managers who have learned from their mistakes and are willing to share.