Nicole Morrow, PMP
Leadership: It’s a word that gets thrown around quite a bit in the workplace. Google it and you will receive over 159,000 results. Try to find a book on the topic and you will uncover more than 81,000 books on Amazon.com. Ask your team or your colleagues to define it and you will get as many variations of an answer as the number of people you ask. With so many options, it might seem that this topic would be easy to define. Unfortunately, all the sources add a different layer of complexity and can cause confusion for the person who wants to understand what practical leadership really means.
One definition of leadership is having willing followers. Many people can coerce their team to do what is needed, but if people aren’t willingly following, than they are just following orders. So what can you do to be a leader – to have willing followers?
It is helpful to remember that leadership is personal to your team. Each individual has a different set of values that motivate them. Understanding this factor helps to unfold the layers of the leadership onion and gives considerable insight into motivating the members on your team. This factor alone is one of the most important keys to success when unlocking the mystery of the word, “leadership” and developing yourself as the strong leader you want to become.
Ask your team to put on a piece of paper what characteristics and actions they have seen in other leaders that were impactful to them and you begin to get farther along the path of leadership discovery. The reason is that true leadership is a result of actions, not acting out a definition on a piece of paper. ‘Tell with your actions’ has never been truer than with this word, “leadership”.
You might hear some people who consider themselves effective leaders if their team members do what they want them to do. Others consider themselves good leaders if all deliverables are met and something is accomplished. Today, I challenge you to consider that “getting things done” is not the same as being a good leader. If the bottom line is successfully met, why doesn’t that equate to good leadership? Compliance is not the same as commitment. In compliance, the team will do what you say but then could be limited by only doing what you say. Lack of that commitment leads to shortcuts, rework, high turnover, and eventually the associated decrease of quality and increase of costs.
We started this message with “Leadership – It’s a word that gets thrown around in the workplace”. In future blogs in this leadership series, we’ll dive into the core characteristics of leadership and how to apply them to make them work for you. For today, the takeaway is that leadership is not a Word; but rather leadership is most powerful as a display of thoughtful actions. With that in mind, start thinking about what thoughtful actions you value from those you look up to as leaders. What characteristics of practical leadership have you seen in those that you admire? You may find that the results lay the foundation of your new leadership style.