Three Strategies to Become a Good Leader
Leadership is all about relationships.
A Relationship Approach that Includes You
“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”
Joanne B. Ciulla
Leadership is not just about getting someone to do what we want them to do. And, it certainly isn’t just about being an example for others to follow. Yet those are the first two principles that most people talk about when they think of leadership.
I like what Joanne Ciulla said – leadership is about relationships. To be a good leader, you have to understand how to tap into the relationships you have with others and find ways to achieve great results together. Because leadership is a relationship-based concept, you might want to consider three strategies to not only be a good leader, but a healthy leader. Those three strategies are: (1) Care about yourself, (2) Care about others, and (3) Be competent in both people and business skills.
1. Care About Yourself
Care about yourself. Care enough to do the things that will build you as a person and as a leader. Leaders get busy and they forget that they are important. You need to take care of ourself. Schedule time to do the things that are important to you. Schedule time to work on your own projects. Schedule time to invest in yourself.
The most important technique for taking care of yourself is to use your calendar. Block out time in your calendar for specific things you want and need to do. This includes reading a book, taking a course, working out, having lunch, working on a project, etc.
If you look at my personal calendar you’ll see major sections of time blocked out for me to use for me. On the surface that may sound selfish – but the truth is if you don’t create time in your calendar for yourself others will overrun your calendar and consume all of your time on them. The result will be frustration, burnout, and resentment.
The race of a leader is more like a marathon than a sprint – so be wise and adjust the pace accordingly.
2. Care About Others
Care enough about the people you work with to want the best for them. This means you will frequently put their interests above your own, and at times, above the interests of the company. This may sound like strange advice – aren’t workers there to further the aims of the company? Yes – but if you treat them like nothing more than a resource to further the aim of the company, you’ll never have a great team or people who will give their best – they’ll just do their job. You want more than that – you want to unlock the potential and power of the talent that works for you.
The best way for me to explain the how is to share a story about a great leader I had at Nike. This particular leader took the time to get to know me and understand my personal as well as professional goals. He knew about my background, my education, my extra-curricular passions such as coaching sports, and he knew about my family.
I was being recruited from Nike to a hi-tech company nearby. The hi-tech company was offering me a lucrative salary, options, and bonuses, and an overall package that Nike could never have matched in that day at my position. I didn’t really want to leave Nike, but I wanted that compensation.
I scheduled time with my leader and we talked about the opportunity. The conversation was less like a boss to subordinate and more like a mentor to a young talent. He set aside the interests of Nike and gave me advice on how to proceed to get an even more lucrative package. He told me exactly what to ask for (25% more than they were offering). He said, “There’s your test – if they take it, that’s a number you can’t refuse. If they don’t, then you know to stay at Nike.”
I followed his advice. The person I negotiated with at the other company was unhappy about my counter offer and said there was no way they could meet that. We closed the conversation amicably and parted ways. I thought that was the end of it. A week later he called me back and said, “Ok, we’ll meet your counter, when can you start?”
Resigning from Nike was tough – but what I found was that leader that coached me was a friend. In fact, he’s been a life-long friend. He taught me a valuable lesson – do more for your people than you do for yourself and look out for their interests.
By the way, I’ve been a huge Nike fan all of my life, purchased lots of gear, and sent them a number of talented individuals who have made their company even greater. That leader at Nike, by doing the right thing for me, did the right thing for Nike.
3. Be Competent in People and Business Skills
Recognize that there are two core groupings of leadership competencies: People-based competencies and business-based competencies.
People-based competencies include things like:
- Motivating and Inspiring
- Emotional Intelligence
- Developing People
Business-based competencies include things like:
- Strategic Collaboration
- Supply-Chain and Value-Chain
- Operating Excellence
- Business Savvy
- Product Knowledge
You need to be balanced and be good at both types of competencies. Leaders must be good at leading people. By leading people you accelerate business objectives. At the same time, leaders must be good at leading the business. In order to lead the business you have to understand the business and the fundamentals of business that go into your particular business focus.
Take charge of your education strategy. Make sure you research, study, and apply principles that help you lead people and organizations. Invest in soft skill development. Also, make sure you continue to advance your understanding and capabilities in business. All businesses have a value-chain, customers, products, and need to make money. Understand the value you deliver – invest in yourself to expand your knowledge of how that value-chain operates and where you can enhance it. Some of this education will be formal, but a great deal of your education will be experiential and engaged by connecting with people and projects inside of your organization that advance your business-based competence.
Leadership learning is a life-long endeavor. That’s why we focus on tools that help leaders. But we know you’re busy. Check out our Lead the People courses, they are designed for you to use in 15-minutes a day. Learn a little. Apply a lot. Grow exponentially. You’ll do it in your own environment with your own business problems. If this sounds interesting, check out our Lead the People series.
Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead
Founder of Leaders247
Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.
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