The most effective leaders are those that have heightened self-awareness. In turn, this heightened self-awareness helps them become more aware of the wholeness of the people they are influencing.
What sets an effective leader apart is not only that they get the job done but also that they are sensitive and aware of themselves and of the people they work with. Leaders do the work of digging deep within to understand who they are. They know their weaknesses and create the space for others to be fully human around them. The awareness of their weaknesses helps them avoid pitfalls. To be an effective leader at work, you have to lead a lifestyle that is practiced privately and publicly. This awareness is practiced privately and publicly.
Sometimes we perpetuate this image that a leader “has arrived.” No. No one ever “arrives.” Leaders have to do their work. They are on a constant journey.
Here are some ways leaders do their work:
Embrace uniqueness: Introverts can be such amazing leaders because they are such great listeners. Effective leadership is not defined by a charismatic outgoing personality. The ability to listen is a huge asset. Extroverts probably have to learn the skill of listening more, but I also know many great extroverts that are awesome at listening. Regardless of your personality type, you can use it to become an effective leader.
Thirsty Learners: Leaders are constantly learning. They are agile. The yield and bend easily. They may be rigid about time but they will show flexibility in other areas. This yielding is because they are learners. Learning is about morphing into something new. Learning grows us. Leaders love to learn. Leaders love to grow.
Leaders intertwine both job skill and ability to relate to others: Make sure you are not defining yourself as a leader based on your technical ability to get the job done. Your resume skills are critical to production. However, leaders focus on the “peopleness” of their teams. Humans do the tasks that are needed in business. Humans are complex and it is art and skill to learn how to deal with us. Make sure you are investing in as much of the skill of human relating as you can. Emotional intelligence counts.
Value people over tasks: Make sure your relationships with those you need are are not transactional. Sometimes, we look at people through the eyes of what they can do for us or what role they can play in our lives. Instead, I challenge you to see each person as a unique individual gift that has value and place in your world. Yes, you are a leader in a business and the bottom line dollar is critical. However, if you do see your people as robots and not humans, you will lose their loyalty and their desire to give you their best.
Be inclusive not just diverse: We all know good teams have diverse types of people. However, are you including their diversity in the project at hand? Are you including their unique contributions in a way that buys them into the project? Likewise for you personally, are all your diverse parts included in your role as a leader? If you are a mom, does everyone at work know about your kids and their amazing soccer games? That art class you took last year, did you tell anyone at work about it? Or are there parts of yourself that you keep firmly out of the office because you do not think it is “professional?” Not wise! Include yourself, all of yourself, in your work and you permit others to do the same.
Embrace solitude: Spend time alone and away from work evaluating your skills and abilities. Solitude allows you to have both a bird’s eye view and a close up view of the forest and the trees of your team. Solitude allows you to self-evaluate so you can improve.
Partner with curiosity: The day you stop being curious about the people around you is the day lose them. Continuously ask yourself what motivates them, how can you help them, what do they need next, why do they choose to get out of bed every day, where are they from, what skills do they have that you are not leveraging? Your people are your assets. Your curiosity is a continuous form of appreciation of them.
Embrace failure: Yes. Let me say it again. Embrace failure. We do not allow for enough failure at work. We are constantly being evaluated based on success but most learning happens during failure. Tell your team about your failures at work and ask for their feedback. Let them know its ok for them to fail at work and that you have their back. Support them in the failure and use that as an opportunity to help them evaluate what could have been done better. Nobody gets everything right 100% of the time.
That’s a short list of things but play with them and use them. They are all great tools that will help you step into this role. If you would like help using any of these tools to increase your leadership capacity, please let me know.