What is leadership?
An age-old question exhaustively studied by scholars and practitioners alike throughout centuries, from the greatest conqueror of all time Alexander the Great to the father of modern leadership Warren Bennis.
Nowadays, it might be easier to say what leadership is not than to say what leadership is.
Ensuring your company always hits its financial targets no matter the implications is not leadership. Constantly telling people what to do and how to do their job is not leadership. Going about on social media like those self-proclaimed influencers and organizing webinars selling people that quick way to success is not leadership.
Frankly, as long as you make it more about yourself than about others, you’re nowhere near true leadership. Influencing people is not leadership but empowering and motivating them is.
Dale Carnegie said that the deepest urge in human nature is the craving to be appreciated, and that’s what leaders should do: show appreciation and genuine care for people while being trustworthy.
Their own needs and motivations are what drives people to action. What you want is not important to them. So instead of talking about your demands, next time you chair a meeting start with what you could do to help others.
Why does it matter?
True leadership helps create an environment where people have the courage and, even more, feel compelled to challenge preconceptions, to ask why and why not.
This is when the magic happens. This is when people start thinking more for themselves and stop blindly following what they’re told to do. This is where difficult and constructive conversations start taking place, sparking creative ideas, and driving initiatives forward. This is where people start feeling that their voice is listened to, that their work is meaningful and they start growing.
Developing the habit of asking why and why not ultimately gives people meaning and leads them to that higher purpose that guides them to achieve phenomenal performances they hadn’t even dreamed of.
And if it doesn’t and they can’t grasp their purpose or match it to the purpose of your business, they at least know they must move on in order to continue their development and pursue their ambitions, which eventually enables you to rely only on people that are truly dedicated to the overall mission.
How do you do it?
Be authentic. Ben Renshaw, the author of the best-selling book Purpose, says authenticity is the single most admired quality in leaders.
Being authentic will conduct you to be transparent in communication and leave as little space as possible for interpretation. Open communication is the foundation and a pre-requisite for trusting relationships and that’s something you will dearly need in order to motivate people.
Listen first – listen with a genuine intent of understanding what the others have to say and train your mind to listen in order to understand, not to reply. You can explore in greater detail the amazing power of replying instead of reacting to what others say or do in our previous blog post.
Stay true to your values at all times, ensure everyone on the team understands what your values really are, and make your intentions clear. There is nothing that drives people off more than the feeling of a hidden meaning, or a mischievous, concealed intention in your communication.
Last but definitely not least, show humility. Aim to be wiser, to know when to step back and accept your limitations. Remember that empowering others can be more effective than deciding or doing the work yourself.