by Dr. David Robinson
With every new leadership opportunity come new challenges. Success always provides more options than lack of success. Questions abound for new leaders, while the little voice inside says, “You have met your Waterloo this time.”
In1966, I began my leadership journey, made many mistakes over the years, but never quit. Take heart, the excitement of creating the future is what leadership is all about. As a life-long learner, I still have the privilege of working with leaders all over the world. Here are seven tips:
1. Have clarity about the Mission, Vision and Core Values for the organization or team you lead. All second and third generation organizations have a history, cultural priorities, a pecking order, and a, “This is how we do things around here,” attitude. Study and get to know them well. Your leadership effectiveness begins there, not your idealistic vision for the future.
2. Reach out to all stakeholders. Some team members have been around a long time. Some may have even wanted your leadership position. Others have paid the price for the opportunity that is now yours. Never take for granted the sacrifices and emotions of those you now lead.
Start early building relationships as a servant-leader. Though you are first in line with authority and responsibility, be last in line for recognition and benefits. Make calls and seek council early and often. Learn the interests and hearts of those you lead. These relationships will serve you well for the long haul.
3. Put the best people in place. The “best” person may not always be the most skilled, but is the best fit for your team. Leadership is not about your production, but your ability to assemble a team of best people and teach them how to win. Ego-driven superstars are not looking for leadership and a team to join, but opportunities to show off their individual talent. Great leaders capitalize on diversity; a balanced mix of personalities, skill, and experience in people who know they are better as a team than any individual star.
4. Understand your public persona and external relationships. Never underestimate what the public and those who serve your organization think. In times of crisis or challenge, they are extremely important. Relationships built earlier determine just how important. Keep in mind, people you step on in your climb to the top, do not expect their outstretched hand on your fall from grace. Every leader disappoints at best and some fall. Relationships determine the length of the fall, and duration of the recovery.
5. Build productive networks inside and outside your organization. Not everyone who wants your attention should have it. Find creative ways to say no with kindness. One of the quickest ways to ineffectiveness and burnout is saying yes to everyone.
Do not be a loner. What you read, watch, and those you allow to speak into your life determines your leadership effectiveness. Choose healthy and productive leaders in other internal departments or similar organizations to form your network.
6. Do not fight the processes, systems, and demands; use them, and then improve them. Observe, listen and analyze before suggesting change. Leading change is fundamental to leadership, and the greatest challenge most leaders face, especially new ones.
Execute change slowly. Great leaders are always three to five years ahead of their stakeholders and one or two years ahead of their core leaders. The right decision made too early many times causes negative results. Know when to be among your team, ahead of them, and above them when making critical decisions.
7. Keep your eye on the ball named results. Leaders juggle many responsibilities; learn not to drop the one called results. Activity, no matter how frenzied or passionate, never takes the place of results based on expected outcomes. Never accept a leadership role without knowing the expectations. Unfulfilled expectations still bring life’s greatest disappointments and most leadership failures. You can only hit a clearly defined target.