Leading by Example
Being in a leadership position can sometimes make you feel like you have a target on your back. Your ability to lead effectively has the power to propel your team to success or drag it down into failure, so it can often feel like the stakes are much higher for only you. But the responsibility shouldn’t be yours alone. As a leader, perhaps your greatest and most valuable skill should be the ability to recognize when your guidance isn’t actually needed. Yes, your leadership is needed to motivate and support your team, but there are times when your voice of authority may be drowning out some really great ideas. Great leaders understand the collective value of their team and can recognize opportunities to take a backseat and allow others to lead.
Developing this skill requires a desire to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of the company, and sometimes a little humility to recognize that your plans aren’t always the best or the only path forward.
Here are 4 important steps to being a great leader who knows how and when to follow.
Effective leadership requires a constant awareness of self. Without self-assessment, your role as a leader is limited to just a powerful title. Evaluate your motives and methods as a leader within your company by keeping the lines of communication open and taking constructive criticism to heart. Your team is a reflection of your leadership, and a discontented or unproductive team signifies a disruption in your efforts to lead. By regularly assessing your own performance, you will be more likely to recognize opportunities to elevate your team members to their own leaderships roles. Regularly ask yourself, “Where can I afford to release a little control? How could I be a better leader?”
As much as you must observe your own performance as a leader, it is just as important to make sure that you observe your team in action. Allow them to demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses without micromanaging so that you are better equipped to assign tasks based on ability. As a leader, getting to know your team ensures that you will be more effective in your ability to manage and organize a given project. The best way to observe the natural strengths of those on your team is by giving the team a project to complete together. Don’t instruct them on how to complete it and don’t impose your methods on their progress. Allow them to organize themselves and distinguish their own leadership within the group, and observe the results. This will give you a clear understanding of who is ready to take on more responsibilities and may also teach you how to lead your team more effectively
The foundation of all relationships – including workplace relationships – is trust. Without it, your role as a leader becomes more about power and less about the best interests of the company. When you are able to trust the members of your team, you are able to release control and feel confident that they will produce results based on their respect for the work and a desire to contribute to company success. Establishing this kind of trust with your team requires you to recognize their unique abilities and value their input. Trust is a two-way street, and if you aren’t willing to step back and allow your staff to strive for success on their own, you will not gain their trust as a leader. Relinquishing control demonstrates trust and will be respected and reciprocated.
This is the biggest step to being a leader who follows. Once you’ve closely examined your methods, observed the strengths and weaknesses of your team and built a relationship of trust, it’s time to let go and delegate responsibilities to those who have demonstrated a willingness to step up to the plate. Delegate leadership roles to those members of your team who have displayed a natural ability to motivate and encourage their peers, and who have a propensity for organizing and staying on task. You can still lead from a distance by showing your support and making yourself available to help overcome potential obstacles, but removing yourself from directly controlling a project will help develop a community of leaders who respect each other and work well together.
As a leader, your job isn’t to stand at the back of the pack and drive your team forward, but to stand alongside them and leverage each individual’s strengths to reach a goal – even if that means taking a step back to allow someone else to shine. This is how strong working relationships are forged and contribute to a positive, successful work environment.
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Platinum Group is headquartered in Asheville, NC with locations in Chapel Hill, NC; Greensboro, NC; and Charlotte, NC.