“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
– Kenneth H. Blanchard
Before you start reading, have in mind a person you admire and respect as a leader.
That person could be someone you’ve worked with or for. It could be a figure on the world stage. If you can’t think of anyone real, pick a fictional character you associate with being a good leader.
Right, do you have someone in mind? Good. Read on…..
Most of the time when I work with clients I am working with people who are leading teams. Those teams might be five people. It could be 500. Occasionally, however, I work with people who don’t see themselves as leaders. With these people I normally hear something like:
- I don’t have anybody who works for me. How can I be a leader?
- We have a very flat structure around here. How can I lead when I don’t have a team?
- I’m not in a leadership position in this organisation.
It’s at this point that I get them to run a very simple exercise. Firstly I get them to do what I just had you do; pick a leader who resonates for them.
Next, and you can do this too now; I get them to tell me what specific behaviours make that person such a good leader.
Write down the specific behaviours that make your respected leader so good for you.
When I get my clients to do this I generally come up with a list that looks like the following:
- My leader really listens to me when I have an issue.
- My leader is always approachable. I know I can talk to them whenever I need to.
- She always seems to see the bigger picture.
- He has a great sense of humour.
- They care about what they are doing and the people they are working with.
These are only a few examples and sometimes we talk in terms of characteristics and not behaviours; Competent, courageous, focused, problem solver for example.
I then ask them the following question:
When you look at those behaviours and characteristics, tell me how they are linked to a position or tied to having someone work for you?
Not once has one of my clients been able to do that.
We can now start talking about how they can start to exhibit the leadership behaviours that they identified and how they can embody those qualities in their role. For example:
• How can they really listen to those they interact with?
• How can they be approachable for others in the company?
• How can they embody competence, courage and focus?
At the time of writing this I did a Google Search of “Leadership Behaviours”. In 0.41 seconds the search returned 18 million results. The first result was a Zenger Folkman article entitled Top 9 Behaviours that Drive Employee Commitment. I would argue that each of the nine behaviours listed could be demonstrated by anyone in your organisation. The second return, a personal branding blog called 15 Behaviours and Traits of Good Leaders lists qualities that anyone, in any role, could do.
Think about your role. How can you exhibit the specific leadership behaviours that you admire?
This quote, and the one at the beginning of this article capture the essence of what I am talking about here; Leadership is a behaviour and not a position.
As an aside, Maxwell wrote a book that lists 21 qualities of a leader. They can all be displayed by anyone in any role as well.
So here’s what I would like you to do….
Take some time this week to think about the leadership behaviours and qualities that you admire in your favourite leaders. Then, reflect on how you could apply those behaviours and qualities to your role in your organisation. For example, if you prize being a good communicator then how could you improve your communication in your role? If you prize being a problem solver in your leaders then what problems could you solve for someone that works near you? Consider leadership as a behaviour, not a position and start seeing yourself as a leader.
Do you know someone who is skilled at leading across all dimensions of an organisation? Down? From the side? Up? Tell us what they do well.
Do you know someone who doesn’t consider themselves a leader? Feel free to share this and your insights with them.
Alternatively, talk to Campbell Leadership Solutions who can assist you with your leadership development or the development of your team.