“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch
One of the most important truths that many new leaders fail to understand is that now their success depends on the success of their followers. One may be a competent salesperson, service crew, technical staff, accountant or engineer but the competence doesn’t spontaneously translate to competence as a leader. A new leader is often caught like a deer frozen in the headlights, feeling absolutely inadequate in his new role. One minute he is the competent and confident individual contributor and the next minute he is the supposed inspiring leader who is put on a stage before an expectant audience. So what is a leader expected to do?
I believe the four most important aspects of leadership can be summarized in the acronym L.E.A.D.
L – Lead by example. Actions always speak louder than words and actions of leaders are always amplified through a megawatt speaker. Leaders need to be ready to live by the same standards they ask of their followers and perhaps much more. Someone said, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” We spend a lot of time checking our emails, reports or presentations for errors and perhaps not enough time examining and correcting ourselves. The best leaders I know regularly spend time to reflect on their own behaviors, actions, words and motives. This needs to happen because usually the higher a leader climbs, the less candid feedback he will receive from his followers.
E – Engage the followers. A leader needs to lead. Leading through control or coercion only gets you the hands but not the hearts, obedience but not commitment. General Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Fundamental to the art of engaging people is the art of listening because as Dale Carnegie wisely put, “the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
A – Achieve results. Successful leaders lead their followers to a better place. Eventually a leader is measured by the outcome, whether it’s higher revenues, more innovative products, and larger market share or in the case of non-profit organizations more volunteers, greater awareness or more people helped. Without achieving results, a leader will soon loose credibility, trust and the commitment of especially the high achievers in the organization.
D – Develop others. Finally a successful leader is the one who build to last. A good leader builds a strong team and achieves results. But a great leader builds strong leaders that will bring the team to even greater heights when he is no longer around. How many times have we seen a good leader depart and everything starts to crumble? Most of the time this happens when the leader failed to develop other leaders. Perhaps that’s why Harvey S. Firestone, the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1900 said “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
Which aspect of leadership do you find most important or lacking in your organization? Are your leaders trained to L.E.A.D.?