You’re a leader.
Now what? Let’s explore the answer to this simple question and discover the secret to your leadership success. First, take a moment and finish this sentence:
In my organization, my role is…
Did you describe your role using your title? If so, that’s okay, but I want you to try again. This time I want you to explain what you do in your position. No titles. Ready, go.
Time out. Did you have a hard time explaining your job with great clarity in just a few words? Why? I don’t blame you. It is hard, especially if you’re new to leadership or this role. But, how important is it to describe your role? It is my belief that in order to be successful in leadership you must fist have undeniable clarity about what you are supposed to be doing.
To help you in this task, let’s ask ourselves a few basic questions.
What am I leading?
To start, let’s talk about “what” we do in leadership. More precisely, explore the question “what am I leading?” The answer to this question lies in understanding the purpose of your organization. Does your organization have a mission or a purpose statement? Something that defines why it exists?
If so, then clues to what YOU are leading can be found in this mission and purpose statement. If not, then start by writing one. Either way, once you have a mission statement in hand, your next step is to drill down a little further into your part of the organization.
What is your core purpose? Your function? Reason for existing? Why did someone create your position and why does it still exist? What should you be doing?
With these ideas in mind, I now invite you to take a moment and jot some thoughts down about your purpose as it relates to your organization. Let’s try describing your role again, but this time start a different way.
The reason my job exists is to…
Where am I leading?
Now that you understand what you are leading, let’s focus on where you are leading. The answer to this question lies in understanding where you and your organization are going. Do you have a vision for your organization’s future? Something that is both long-term and short-term and different from the present?
Where you are leading speaks to a destination that is off in the distance. You can see it, but getting there requires labeling it, deciding that you want to get there, telling people about it, and putting a plan in motion to get there. Simply put, working to answer this question leads you to setting goals for you and others to rally around.
Defining the future state can be an easy activity if you let it. For just a moment, dream a little. Imagine yourself one year (or choose another time frame) from now. What will you be happy that you and your organization accomplished? Write that down and make that your goal. That’s where you’re leading.
Our organization is going to…
How am I leading?
With what and where locked down, let’s think about how. How will you lead yourself, your team, and your organization to your destination? The answer to this question is a threefold matter: style, execution, and skill.
With regard to style, this is about understanding who you are leading and making choices that are situation-ally conducive to those relationships. Choosing your style involves asking two questions:
- How do the individuals on my team like to be lead?
- What approaches are the best match for my natural tendencies?
Where the answers to these two questions intersect is the sweet spot where you and the people you lead can be mutually successful.
Turning to execution, you need a specific and tangible plan of action that puts you on a path to achieving your goals.
- What will you do,
- Who will do it, and
- By when will they do it?
Answer those questions, write them down, and share them with your team.
Finally, what skills are necessary to get you from point A to B? The list of needed skills may vary and depend greatly on your specific situation. Let’s brainstorm a list of skills together. Follow these steps:
- Quickly write a list of skills that you think are important for your organization. As many as you can think of. Stop when you start slowing down.
- Which of these do YOU need to be good at, based on what you now know about what and where you’re leading? Select the top five most critical.
- Look at your top five and ask yourself, how am I doing? Your choices are “killin’ it,” “getting by,” and “uh oh.”
For those skills where you’re “killin’ it,” pat yourself on the back. Good for you and keep using those skills for the betterment of your organization. For those where you’re “getting by” take a closer look and ask yourself if you need some help from others.
For the “uh oh” items, go find a mentor who can help you get better. Make haste, because these may be skills that will get in the way of your success and your organization’s glory.
We will accomplish our goals by…
The Secret to Your Leadership Success
Now that you’ve gained clarity on what, where, and how you’re leading, we have two more important questions to ask. And those are “Can I lead” and “Will I lead?” and these are a matter of self-confidence in your abilities and making conscious choices to take action in your role.
When I find myself in a new leadership position I often fall into the natural trap of self-doubting, asking if I have what it takes. If I’m qualified. And if people will choose to follow me. The antidote for this kind of thinking is reminding ourselves of two important factors.
- One: I know what, where, and how I’m leading.
- Two: People will not follow my lead if I don’t want them to.
Noodle on that a bit.
In conclusion, the secret to your leadership success lies in your ability to cleanly and without hesitation answer these three simple, fundamental, but important questions:
- What am I leading?
- Where am I leading?
- How am I leading?
Know what you’re leading, where you’re leading and how you’re leading. The answers will ground you and offer you, your team, and your organization much needed focus. You’re a leader. Now go lead!
Do you think there are more questions that we should be asking ourselves about our leadership roles? Share those below.
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