How do I lead a team?
How do I lead a team effectively? – Here’s a question we get asked regularly and one that vexes many managers – and understandably so.
Leadership is never easy and, as many leaders will agree, can be a really lonely place even at the best of times. Yet great leadership is essential to the health of our organisations, the people who work with us, and our collective futures. So we wanted to give something to those of you reading this who believe that leadership can be learnt and can make a difference.
What Leadership is not
First, let’s be clear – leadership is not charisma. There have been many charismatic leaders in business, scoiety and politics who have probably been disastrous in terms of their leadership. Adolf Hitler is one obvious (and extreme!) example of the ‘charismatic leader’ who had woeful leadership skills as we will define them. In Good to Great, Jim Collins gave examples of leaders who were charismatic yet self-absorbed – those who ‘told the time’ rather than ‘built the clock’. Think of Carly Fiorina in Hewlett Packard, and you have an example of the celebrity leader who pursues his or her self-interest above that of the company or team
What followers expect from their leaders
We’re fortunate that we don’t have to descend into a debate as to ‘this is what we think leadership should be’. Fortunate because Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have spent decades researching this question in over 40 countries around the world and come up with the answers team constituents have provided. So here goes:
1. Model the Way
First off, you need to be clear of the behaviours required for success in your team, you need to be clear of the values your team or organisation needs for success, and, most importantly of all, you need to be clear of your own values, so your action items here are…
- Write down the values you hold most dearly in life (try to reduce these to the five most important to you)
- Do your behaviours reflect these values? Which behaviours or habits do you feel do not? What’s causing these behaviours to surface? How can you overcome these derailing behaviours? How can you do more to live the behaviours that already reflect your values? Get feedback from friends!
- Which of the values that you have written down do you think can be shared by your team? In this stage you need to clarify the values that matter – then live them, together.
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
Having clarified values, the next expectation is that you articulate a really compelling vision. What direction is your team heading in? What does success look like? How motivating is this vision without any extrinsic items like money? So…
- Make a scan of your organisation’s reality. What situation are you facing?
- What’s the greatest vision you can create based on this situation? (Note that compelling visions are born from reality. Anything else is merely a fantasy!)
- Articulate this vision as visually and tangibly as possible.
3. Challenge the Process
The third expectation followers have is for them to feel comfortable challenging the process. What does this mean? This means that the following are encouraged:
- It’s OK to experiment… it’s OK to make mistakes!
- We look outside-in. We break out of silos.
- Taking risks is encouraged (of course always hold in mind the intent)
- Look for and celebrate small wins when change is decided on
4. Enable Others to Act
The fourth expectation shared by followers the world over is that their leaders enables them to act. This is another way of saying that they like it when their leader empowers them. To achieve this, you can…
- Find out what kind of work gives your followers / team constituents most meaning
- Remove obstacles to their effectiveness – these could be rules and regulations – also your own habits!
- Give them the tools that help them accomplish their work, and
- Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion – delegate where possible!
5. Encourage the Heart
The key to meeting the fifth expectation is to find ways of encouraging your team emotionally and spiritually. To achieve this, it’s important that you…
- Recognise contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence
- Celebrate the values and victories by creating the spirit of community’
- Take an interest in what your followers are doing – then call them out on their successes!
Get confident leading your team!
Of course, if you would really like to get confident leading your team, why not have a look at The Leadership Challenge. This is a two or three day leadership development programme and is (in our opinion) the best way to learn about leadership other than through experience!
If you want a nicely distilled way to stretch your leadership muscles with great examples and activities – this is unquestionably it. You can ask us more here.
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