Being a leader can be difficult if you don’t have a clear direction. What are your goals? How do you want to be viewed? There are three key pillars that I think are important to establish right off the bat.
Lead from Behind.
If you look at some of the very best leaders in the industry, the most respected leaders – they are often the ones that understand that you need to “lead from behind”. Full disclosure, I did not come up with the term “leading from behind”. I’ve heard quite a few folks use the term in a variety of ways.
Here is what I mean when I say leading from behind… it’s important to show that you are there for your employees and not the other way around. Without them, your business you wouldn’t be able to run your business. Without you, they wouldn’t have a good leader. Make sure that you are one with the team. Stand in line with them (and not always at the front), stay in the same style hotel room, park in the same parking lot.
I completely understand that you have worked hard to get where you are and there are certain things that you are entitled to because you are successful but don’t forget that at the end of the day you are just as human as every one of your employees. Additionally, there are a lot of employees that are also working really hard (in some cases just as hard as you) to gain the success that you have. Showing them that no matter how successful you become being a good person is so crucial to how you are perceived as a leader. For your employees to respect and trust you they must feel like you are on their level and not some kind of demi-god.
We’ve all heard the term “managing up” and while it’s important to make your boss’s life easier (I have a whole bunch of content dedicated to that) it’s also important to make those who work under you feel at ease in their roles. It’s important to outline roles and responsibilities and be very clear upfront.
Don’t focus so much on making your manager’s life easy that you forget to be a good leader. The first time that I led a team, my goal was to teach and mentor each of my teammates in a way that they would become smarter and better at the job than I was. Think about that. If every person taught the person that would then fill their role to do the job better than they could – how amazingly successful, what amazing growth we would see. Your job as a manager isn’t just to guide – it’s to foster growth (and lots of it).
If every time you had spare time you jumped into the foxhole and helped out one of your teammates, think about how much would get done. Instead of everyone panicking about workload, you could have a short happy hour at the end of the week to celebrate your success.
If your in an industry that has multiple job functions, try to learn as much as you can about all of them. Become the auxiliary contact. Make sure all the teams are talking, saying the same thing, and moving in the same direction. Being a leader with a cross-functional background makes it so much easier for you to talk the same language as other teams you are working with and collaborate with. The most successful projects that I have ever worked on are the ones where everyone is collaborating and it’s not a painful process. One team. One Dream.
Being a leader can be hard but if you remember these three key pillars you are off to a good start.