Look. Sometimes you’re so good at your job or running your business that you end up leading people through no fault of your own. It just happened.
And you suspect you might be a bit s#*! at it.
People are looking at you with an expectation that you will lead. And you’re doing the things you think are supposed to work but it’s not really working.
How do you know? People tell you your communication is bad. They feel there’s a lack of direction or clarity about the direction. They are disengaged, not stepping up, not speaking up. You’re paying a personal cost — you’re tired, and stressed, working long hours, fixing problems that surely should be someone else’s job. And overall it’s the bit that keeps you up at night when, if you’re going to have sleepless hours, you should really be thinking about something more substantial than the fight between two members of your team or the fact that people appear to be posting on Instagram when they should be participating fully at meetings.
And it’s not like you haven’t tried. You’ve read books and been on courses. Hell, you may even have an MBA. But the expectations on leaders are so high. It’s all HBR articles entitled “The 79 Essential Qualities Every Leader Needs” and announcements from HR like “Here are our company leadership behaviours in this neat 205 page handy guide”. There’s no way you can succeed if that’s the expectation.
And not all of us are naturally cut out to be great people people. We are brilliant marketers or operational specialists or tech bods or logisticians. We didn’t ask to be leaders. But here we are anyway.
How can you be a bit less s#*!?
Sometimes, to have the impact you want to have, influence the direction of your business or make your vision for your business a reality you’re going to need to lead. So how can you be a bit less s#*! at it?
- Stop trying to have all the answers. You don’t. Trying to work it all out yourself isn’t the sign of a good leader. Instead of being the answers person become the curious question person.
- Work on your own s#*!. Leadership development is really just personal development. Understand your values and what drives you. Rediscover your sense of purpose and develop your strengths. Be a better human by being more authentic and connected to yourself.
- Acknowledge that at least you know you’re s#*!. Or at least that you’re humble enough to wonder whether you might be. The worst leaders are those who think they’re doing a brilliant job but are totally deluded. Some self doubt is a good thing if it leads you to want to grow. It’s only bad when it turns in to dysfunctional behaviours like shafting colleagues to make yourself look better and taking credit for the work of your team.
- Step the hell back. Create space for people to shine. Be the one who removes the obstacles that stop them doing the best job they can do and then get out of the way yourself.
Ok. There is more to it than that. And that’s why so few people are good at it.
It’s much harder to lead these day because the pace of change is so great, whole industries are being disrupted, employee and customer expectations are higher than ever, the market is really competitive and resources are always so tight while targets just get tougher. And most of what’s written about leadership is based on old fashioned notions that just don’t work today.
But maybe you can be a bit less s#*! tomorrow. And that’s a good start.
Blaire speaks about the future of leadership and coaches exceptionally talented executives and entrepreneurs. She is also designing some programmes for individuals who think they might be a bit s#*! but want to improve. www.thatpeoplething.com
And if you’ve had enough of the rat race and want out, her other company A Brilliant Gamble (www.abrilliantgamble.com) is the place to go.