Three Essential Ingredients for Leading Anyone Without These Your Leadership Will Fall Flat
There are three essential ingredients for leading anyone. Anytime I have forsaken them, my leadership has fallen flat.
Let me share them with you.
Go to Their World
My natural tendency is to lead people from my own position. I want people to come to my world, to meet me where I am. Follow me, isn’t that what leaders are supposed to say? Well, no. They are not. Great leaders don’t say follow me, or come with me, or move toward me. Great leaders go (physically and emotionally) to where people are. They see the world from other people’s perspectives.
In the TV show “Undercover Boss,” where top leaders of big companies are disguised and spend time with unsuspecting teams, CEO’s discover truths that they did not know. Truths that fancy reports and expensive consultants could not reveal. Why? Because nothing replaces going to your people’s world.
In my leadership, anytime I want to impact a team, especially during times of change or stress, being with my people—spending time with them in their environment—is instrumental. It communicates that I am in this fight with you. You can count on me. I will be here to see any problems, to take care of them.
I am not a big office person. I think great leaders do not cocoon themselves in an office. They go to where their people are. I have a space somewhere to do my work. However in times of stress, I make it my practice to take my work and go sit close to others. I literally pick up my laptop and my work, if only for part of the day, and I get to my people’s world. I want to see them in action. I want them to know that I see how hard they are working. I don’t make this an opportunity to micromanage. Rather, I let them know that I see them and I am with them.
I want my people to know: I am not better than you. I am with you.
Listen to Their Heart
If you don’t know how your people feel, you cannot lead them well. A person’s heart is a key to their life. For a moment, forget what I am doing if you are leading me. Forget the task. Forget even the vision. Our people are asking all the time: Do you see me? Do I matter? Is my only worth to you what I can do for you? I hope we all can answer a resounding no.
Have you ever had an encounter with someone who truly cares about you, who has sat down with you and patiently listened to you? They did not say much, but they had a smile. And their eyes communicated, “I understand. I can relate. You’re okay. And I am here for you.”
My challenge to us today is this: Will we structure our lives so we can slow down long enough to truly understand people’s heart data: their aspirations, dreams, challenges, hopes, and fears?
Lead Them to the Next Step
This principle has been life changing for me. As leaders, we tend to want to reach our goals with our people now. As a business owner, I want to make sure we are meeting our quotas and fulfilling our purpose. As a leader, I want to be sure we are living our values and building our vision. And yes, I want to see everyone, including myself, living this out to our maximum 100% of the time. I wish I could snap my fingers and make that happen. But that’s not how leadership works.
I learned this extremely powerful yet simple idea from my mentor, Pastor Peter Rahme. Our goal should be to go the next step. In the beginning, I did not quite get it. It seemed so obvious. But his words actually contain deep wisdom. First, we must be moving forward. So if I, or others around me, are not moving forward, then that in itself is unacceptable. The second key to this principle is that the next step for most of us is not the final step. Let me expound. Where you want to lead another person or a team of people may require 5, 10, 50, or 100 steps to reach your final destination. Don’t be frustrated if their next step is step number 85. Just create the expectation that we keep making steps forward.
Here is a practical example: You may be leading someone to handle his emotions better and not fly off the handle in anger. Of course, we would love that he would stop immediately—and forever. But when it becomes clear that he cannot, we need to let him know, “Our final goal is for you to not act out in anger. However, let’s examine what the next step in that journey may be. What do you think?” You may decide that instead of getting angry twice a week, a next step goal may be that he needs to bring that down to once every two weeks. Let him reach his next step goal first and be okay with that.
If I’ve learned anything in leadership it is this: You must give people time. Be patient. However, you must see some progress as well. You must see next steps being taken. Occasionally, some will surprise us and go to the final step immediately. But for most, it is the next step we must seek, aiming toward the final goal.
Actionable Step: Write these three principles and keep them somewhere visible. Begin reading and practicing them daily.
What I Am Reading Now: The Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware.
For Further Reading: