“I am the leader, get in line behind me.”
This is a dumb rule that spread like wildfire and developed an inaccurate representation of leadership to six-year-olds across the country.
I started my own leadership journey thinking I was playing line leader. It caused me to fail miserably, but then I realized the Tom Peter quote was true, “the best leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.” I am sure if Peters had created six-year-old line leaders, he would have had the leader in the back making sure everyone was courageous enough to go into music class.
Now, I work daily to help other leaders do the same, and I’ve learned one very important lesson for creating more leaders successfully:
You can’t get caught up in the outcome
Each person chooses to apply what they learn or not. In other words, all you can do is lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Adopting this mindset allows ownership to lay with the person who ultimately has to choose and live out their own leadership journey. No longer will you feel the need to force or control the outcome.
The very best leaders embody these characteristics that in turn, help them effectively create more leaders:
They are good leaders themselves
No one wants to learn from someone who doesn’t live out what it means to be a leader. I define leadership as someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.
When I asked Dustin Kaehr on the Follow My Lead Podcast what the most important characteristic for a leader to embody today he said, “There are many things, but humility is at the top.”
You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. It means you aren’t just teaching them why it’s important to have humility, but you’re also showing your team how to be a humble leader on a daily basis.
They are persistent and consistent on their leadership journey
Becoming a leader takes time and it doesn’t have an end date on it. Just because you get to some level of proficiency as a leader, you will always be learning new and trying new things to continue your development.
A mentor of mine told me, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be taught.” It’s true. Building up other leaders requires a love of learning and professional development. Be an example for your people.
They are constantly teaching and coaching
Elevating others to become their best takes a lot of work and patience. A random lesson here or there isn’t going to get the job done. You have to have your teaching and coaching hat on all the time because any given moment could expose an opportunity to teach an important lesson or use a question to coach someone to come up with answers themselves.
They admit they don’t have all the answers
There will be moments where you learn something you have been teaching is proven wrong. In moments like this, reject your natural tendencies and say the words so many people struggle to say, “I was wrong, here is a better way to do it.”
There is no doubt the best leaders are learners, which means it’s completely okay if you don’t have all the answers.
They give away ownership and responsibility
Power is a funny thing for leaders because often with the title comes a power they have never had. Unfortunately some like the sensation so much they hold onto and take advantage of it. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
The best leaders give away the power and responsibility to others so they can take ownership of their decision making and behaviors. This is easy to write but difficult to put into practice.
Whether you are currently embodying these five characteristics or not, don’t beat yourself up. One of the most important things you can do as a professional is helping others become a leader, so take this as a sign it’s time to make some changes.
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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.