Lead With Success – Bigger Isn’t Better
I want to lead with greater effectiveness – greater success. Over the years as I’ve held various leadership positions and I have yet to arrive! There’s always room for growth and opportunities to get better. And who doesn’t want to be a better leader? The question is: what is it that makes you a better leader?
In the past, I’ve confused taking on more and more as a sign of progressing as a leader and being more successful. That mindset fooled me into thinking that I was increasing my capacity and excelling as a leader. After all, if I’m able to handle more responsibility, then I must be thriving as a leader, right?
Wrong! There’s a direct correlation between your leadership ability and your level of effectiveness as a leader. John Maxwell calls this “The Law of the Lid.” If you truly want to be a better leader and have a greater impact, you must invest in developing yourself as a leader. As you increase your ability to lead ability, success is sure to follow.
What Makes A Successful Leader?
A few years back I encountered a leader I’ll call Sally who was struggling. Another leader who reported to her (Angie) was well-respected and performed her duties with excellence. As a result, Angie took on more and more. Sally expressed concerns about the pattern she saw unfolding and urged Angie to delegate some of her responsibilities. Each time the topic came up, Angie dismissed it. After all, no one would be able to perform the tasks as well as she did and quality mattered!
Angie was confused about what would ultimately enable her to be a successful leader. In her mind, taking on more and performing with excellence was the key. Unfortunately, as long as she continued to take on more work and resisted multiplying herself, the likelihood of her arriving where she wanted to be was slim.
To compound the issue, the culture of the organization she worked for was one that encouraged their people to not stick in any one position too long, but to grow, advance, and keep on moving upward.
Imagine what a powerful influence Angie might have had if she was able to transfer her knowledge, skills, and heart for excellence to those around her – a far greater impact than she would be able to have doing excellent work alone. And isn’t an increased impact what leading is all about?
We might clearly see Angie’s error, but I’ve already confessed that I’ve made this mistake myself. It’s easy to get into the more and more mentality but it is just not sustainable. Sadly, more, more, more, results in less! Less focus, less effectiveness, less success.
In the book Onward by Howard Schultz, Howard admits that the constant push to open more and more Starbuck’s locations nearly did them in. It was too much, too fast, combined with the financial struggles in 2008. Without a keen determination to improve their processes, provide better customer service, and return to their “why,” Starbucks would not be where they are today. They had to do what they do better! And that meant leading better.
Being an effective leader means being intentional about knowing your strengths, your limits and where you will have the greatest impact. And it’s about motivating others to do the same – all towards a common goal.
Here’s some food for thought to help you become a better leader:
1. Clarifying the Win
Sadly, being frantically busy doesn’t equal success. It isn’t the number of tasks you are able to do or the number of stores you have open that make you successful. In fact, those endeavors are the busy work that’s keeping you from achieving the results you are after.
What is the ultimate win for you? We tend to measure our success in dollars and titles, but it’s probably more likely that your ultimate win is some version of making a difference. If so, how many people do you want to impact? How will you know when you’ve accomplished that? What needs to happen to make that possible?
2. Evaluating Regularly
As a leader, your greatest tool is your mind! That means that you need space to think – to reflect. Time to dream, problem solve, and analyze. It’s a critical aspect of leading that often gets squeezed out.
I encourage you to establish a rhythm of evaluating what’s happening in your organization and ask yourself…
- What’s working? Celebrate successes! Find ways to lean in to what’s working.
- What’s not working? Get honest! What needs some extra attention?
- What needs to change? Be strategic. What are some creative ways to address the issues?
- What’s possible? Dream big. What if…
3. Assessing Yourself
Self-assessment is important, and you can ask yourself the very same questions listed above about yourself. Connecting to how you are feeling about yourself and work is time well spent.
It’s also critical to get the insights of those around you – how do they see you showing up? What do they think you are doing well and what do you need to work on? There are several ways you to do this. First, regularly invite others to give you feedback. It’s one of the best ways to grow!
Second, have a 360-degree review done. It’s something I regularly do with leaders I work with. The people at all levels around you weigh in on specific questions about you and your work. Since the information is typically anonymous, you get an honest sense of your strengths and potential areas of growth that will ultimately raise your upper limits as a leader. It’s also a way to highlight any discrepancies between how you view yourself and how others view you as a leader.
When you know your strengths, where you are most effective, then you are able to channel your energy where it will have the biggest impact. And hand off the areas that are better executed by someone else.
4. Setting Compelling Goals…
Not the little get-them-done-by-next-week goals. Big goals! Goals that will take some time to accomplish and that will require you to lead others well in order to reach them.
Once your big goals are in place, determine the daily actions that will achieve your goals. And establish some milestones – places along the way that will let you to know that you are making progress in the right direction.
For example, if your goal is to have ten new clients by the end of the year, what actions do you need to perform on a daily/weekly basis in order to add those ten clients or ten new donors or…? Do you need to…
- Make 50 calls a day?
- Attend a certain number or networking events?
- Follow up with 20 potential people each week?
Be very specific about what the daily action steps are and then evaluate your progress to see if you have identified the best action steps to reach your goal.
You will also want to help the people you lead to identify the daily actions that are going to enable the organization to achieve the big goal.
5. Connecting to Your Why
Without a compelling reason for pursuing a goal, you will lose heart as a leader, especially when it gets challenging. And excellent leaders help their people make the same connection to their own whys.
How will you keep your why in front of you – a visible reminder in the midst of tough times?
6. Balancing Well
When a leader sets out to accomplish something significant, the temptation is to do more and more, but an out of balance leader is not an effective leader! That’s why it’s essential to know your limits, strengths, and lead yourself well!
Relationships, health, time with God, etc. often take a back seat when pursuing a big goal. The very things that will keep you energized. That doesn’t mean you won’t have moments of intense focus on accomplishing something, it just can’t be your way of life!
7. Minding Your Mind
How have you, in your attempt to become a better leader, taken on more when you actually need to become a better leader? A more focused and intentional leader? Where do you need to improve your leadership skills?
What would make you a better, more effective leader?