If I asked you to close your eyes and visualize a leader, what image would come to mind?
When I originally did the exercise, the first thought that came to mind was a statue of a military general. For some reason, a general in the 1700’s with one leg on a giant rock pointing a sword to direct his troops into battle.
One could say, a commanding style of leader that came up with all of the plans, made decisions with the input of a few and received all the glory in victory or disappointment in defeat.
The image I saw seems to be a fairly popular answer. If it isn’t someone exactly like my military general, it tends to be someone who demonstrated some kind of command and control leadership style. While this type of leadership has been effective in the past and is often what’s portrayed in movies, it struggles to be effective in today’s modern environment (one major exception a crisis situation)
Instead of listing off all of the reasons a commanding style of leadership is less effective in most situations, here is a modern definition of leadership I have settled on and covered in a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast:
If your actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time, you are a leader.
If you can get behind this definition of leadership, here are a few ideas for how to live it out in your everyday work life:
Focus on relationships with your people.
Sean McVay the 32-year-old NFL coach of St. Louis Rams, who was named 2018 Coach of the Year said recently on Positive U podcast with Jon Gordon, “good coaches help their players reach their highest potential. In order to be able to do that, it starts with being able to connect with them as a human being first.”
There are varying levels and ways to ensure you have solid relationships with team members, but relationships are the foundation of effective leadership. Regardless of how great you believe your relationships are, don’t forget to keep putting in the work to improve them.
Use what you hired your people for.
Long gone are the days of hiring people solely for their hands or manual labor. The organizations that win today use and engage those 6 inches between our ears, the brain. That includes; making decisions, innovative ideas, and or finding better work processes.
It’s literally impossible with all of the information and data available to us for one person to have the right answer or idea in every situation. Sure someone has to be ultimately responsible for the decisions that are made but if someone’s mind isn’t being engaged, they will never reach their full potential.
Set high standards.
A standard is simply, “defining what good looks like.” The best leaders use standards as a way to communicate what excellence looks like and they don’t lower the bar under any circumstance. They know the minute they lower their standards is the instant performance begins to erode.
The best part of using standards as a leader of a team is other people get to choose if they are going to meet and exceed the standards set or not. The choice and the personal discipline required to be apart of your team or organization is no longer on the leader it’s on the team member. Right where it should be.
So instead of trying to be the statue in the park who leads by command and control. Change your approach, and you might end up being a statue in a park because you brought a lot of people with you.
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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft a full-service organizational health and leadership development company. He is also the host of the Follow My Lead Podcast and author of Follow My Lead: Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. Follow him on Instagram @johngeades.