We often think of leaders as those at the helm or pinnacle of an organization: The CEO of a huge corporation; the President, a cabinet member or the mayor of a city. However, everyone plays multiple leadership roles every day. Do you know the experts cannot define leadership in a simple sentence? That is because different people define it differently. How ever leadership has to do with your ability to influence other people to take action. Being a mom involves leadership skills, as you have to influence your kids and not just bark out instructions. Being a school bus driver involves influencing the kids to behave. Being a professor involves leadership also as you have to influence those college kids beyond the classroom. Everyone is designed to be a leader because you are designed to interact with other people by just being human. However, you have to want to lead and be intentional about it in order to be effective.
Leadership is evolutionary. The kind of leadership a mom exercises in making decisions for a toddler is different than the type needed when the kid is off in college. It is the same thing with work leadership. Think of your career in blocks of seven years and what you learned in each seven-year block. Think of blue-collar workers like masons and electricians. You see the same pattern followed loosely by law firms. Roughly, they follow this cycle:
i. Years 1-7 years – apprentice or associate – you are learning the skills of the trade and you are tweaking and fine tuning such skills. Think of kids at this age and how they are being introduced to the world and how they are learning to master the rudiments of being human.
ii. Years 7-14 – Journeyman or junior partner – you have mastered the trade and you can delegate to others. Here a kid at this age is learning to be independent and make good decisions.
iii. Years 14-21 – Master Journeyman or senior partner – you can have your own shop right now and be able to generate money as well as inspire your people under you. A child at this age is usually out the door by the time the turn 18! Adulting and complete independence begins in this state.
At some point in your career, you take on more responsibilities based on your level of skill. As your skills become more fine-tuned and more results oriented, naturally, your employer will want you to lead other people so that they can duplicate your wonderful abilities.
But how much training have you received in how to actually lead people compared to being trained to duplicate your efforts? You have great skills in getting the job done (tasks) but have you been trained in relationships and leading other people?
Leadership development helps you develop the skill of balancing getting the task done and influencing those that are getting the task done in a positive and life-giving way that ultimately, grows the organization.
Influencing others is not manipulating them. It is not barking orders at them. It involves observing them closely to make sure that they are fully suited for that job. It involves a discernment process of what it takes to get the job done. Many times managers are promoted into leadership roles and good management always involves leadership but good leadership does not always involve management. Did you know that? Do not mistake management for leadership.
As a leader, what things do you try to influence?