Find The Best Leader For A Given Situation

If you are in a leadership position you may feel like you need to be constantly in charge. You may feel like if you stop “leading” even for a second it may be taken as a sign of weakness, you may lose the respect of others, you may lose control. Depending on the culture (both national and corporate) there are certain expectations. In a culture that prefers masculine traits, extroverted behavior and demonstration of power you need to be constantly visible and constantly in charge. That is how you demonstrate leadership and that is the expectation. However, is it really the right way how to lead?

Why to step aside

If you are constantly in charge and the only person from the team who is constantly visible you are inviting a disaster. Your team will be hidden behind you with some negative consequences coming down the road. When you don’t give the team visibility they will never grow, they will never get a chance to step up and they won’t be able to get credit for their work. You may believe that you are shielding the team from undue pressure (and yes, it is needed from time to time) but as any parent know if you want your child grow you need to step aside and provide opportunities.

Leader for every situation

When you are in a leadership and/or management position you should always ask yourself couple of basic questions to decide how much you need to be involved.

  • What value my leadership brings in this particular situation? – if you are not bringing anything then you may consider letting someone else who brings a unique value to step in
  • Am I the only one capable of leading this initiative? – if not, you may use it as a growth opportunity for someone else
  • Am I passionate about this initiative or are there others more enthusiastic about it? – if there is someone on the team who is very passionate about the initiative chances are he or she will do a better job than you
  • What would the team get if I just let someone else to lead? – would they learn? Grow? Get visibility? Get credit?
  • What are the chances of success of this initiative? – if the chances are slim you should probably stay in charge rather than set someone else for failure, but if the success is guaranteed why not let others shine

If you come to a conclusion that you are not really required to spearhead the initiative then just get out of the way and let others lead. This is what I would call “the find the right leader” management style. Anyone in the team can be a leader if given the right opportunity.

Let me give you an example. I’m leading and managing teams for years and often I step aside and let others lead and take ownership of various initiatives. I’m not someone you could call a party animal. I understand that various social events are important to build a good team spirit but I’m not passionate about it, I’m not particularly good at organizing it and I don’t even think I would be able to do a good job as I just “don’t get it”. As a leader it is my responsibility to build the team, to do it effectively and by utilizing other resources at my disposal. I have always found someone on the team who just loves to party, who loves to get involved in organizing social events and who will do it will all the passion and dedication. This person is a true leader and others will accept him and follow his leadership when it comes to social gatherings. I’m more than happy to step aside and let this person to take the lead.

When to assert yourself?

The same goes in both directions. If you are part of a bigger company you may step up into a leadership role that is bigger than just your team and that is often informal. You may lead a global initiative to improve on-boarding of new employees, or you may drive the effort across various departments to keep the office clean. These are situations where there is no clear owner or where the owner has decided to step aside and let you lead it. Why? Most likely you have something that drives you. You have a passion for that particular work or initiative and others recognize it. Because they see that this is something important to you and they see your enthusiasm and dedication they will allow themselves to be led by you even when there is no direct or indirect organizational link.

As an example I can talk about my passion for helping other people around me to grow. Over the course of my career I have often volunteered to lead or at least participate in various initiatives focused on training and developing people. Sometimes I would just volunteer to participate, develop some material, be an advocate, test run some program, volunteer myself and my team to be guinea-pigs. Sometimes, when there was no clear owner I would just push the people development and mentoring initiatives because I felt it is needed and I felt that I’m the only one who cares enough to get it done. In both types of situations it was a very natural thing for me to do. I didn’t need too much time to think about it, I didn’t need permissions of anyone and I usually got understanding and support of others once I got involved. Why? People around me saw that this is something I’m passionate about and didn’t question why should they listen or follow my lead.

Twitter type summary: “You don’t need to be constantly in charge. Just find the right situation to put other passionate people in the lead.”

What are your thoughts? When is it better to get out of the way of your team? Are there situations when you just step aside and let others lead?

Holiday Special – The Best Posts of 2013

It was in April this year when I wrote the first post on this blog. Now, 8 months and 50+ posts later I’m sitting here and thinking about what to write about as the year is coming to an end. And the answer is right here, how to celebrate better than by looking back and remembering some of the key articles that appeared on this blog. So allow me to present what I consider the best posts dealing with various aspects of leadership and life itself.

Communication

How to deal with broken promises – Always address behavioral issue as soon as you see it by providing direct feedback and explaining natural consequences

Now, how may I help you? – When giving feedback always keep the desired outcome in mind. Is it about corrective action or building self-esteem?

So you’ve got a remote boss. Tricky… – Any relationship is a two way street. Don’t just sit and wait for your boss to walk to you, but go and meet him in the middle

Recruitment

Everyone is a recruiter – It’s not a single person. It takes everyone from the team to recruit, interview and build a great team that will hold together

Getting the perfect hire – When it comes to a fight between expertise and attitude, the attitude will win with both eyes closed and one hand behind its back

Leadership

Life is not fair! So what? – Sticking with your values, being firm, transparent and consistent in your actions will make you seen as a leader who is fair

The real leadership shows when you are not the boss – The real leadership shows when you get things done utilizing a team that doesn’t report to you and has no incentive to work with you

Mentoring by telling stories – Telling stories is a powerful way to provide mentoring. Just make the story authentic, short, focused, positive and relevant

Allow your team to fail – It is fine to fail. Just make sure you fail fast. The only thing you shouldn’t tolerate is a failure to act

How can you motivate others? You can’t! – You cannot force people to be motivated, but you can create environment where they get a chance to motivate themselves

Productivity

Lack of time is just an illusion! – It is your choice to get a mindset that allows you to have all the time in the world and spend your attention on things important to you

The delusion of multitasking – The human brain is not wired for multitasking and if you believe that you are great at parallel execution you are just deluding yourself

You’ve got the right guy… in the wrong job – Going for the sweet spot is the best strategy for building a high-performing organization where people do what they are passionate about

Life

Looking at the world through the eyes of 5-years old – To form a more positive view of the world don’t over-analyze everything and try to be a bit more open, curious, trusting and naive

The never ending learning – It is a responsibility of each and every of us to take ownership of our own development and never stop learning

Human brain, the biggest liar of all times – Human brain has an incredible power of imagination. And it uses that power to feed us misinformation and faulty facts

 

What are your favorite thought leaders and articles of this year?

Leading When Things Go Wrong

What would you do if things started to go really bad for your team, your project, your company? Would you start looking for other opportunities or would you rather increase the effort to fix the problem? Would you start to be negative and become part of the problem or would you rather increase your resolve and positive approach to be part of the solution?

See the big picture

People react differently when things go down and it is only human to consider options. To know what you should do is to consider the bigger picture of your life, your priorities and your values. Consider what impact your decision has on your family, your coworkers and your friends and community. And don’t just stay at the surface but dig deeper.

The company is losing money, you will not get your bonus and your manager came to you asking if you are willing to take a cut in the paycheck. If you live and breathe for the company then it is a no brainer. However, what if your priorities are your family? Less money will directly affect them. So you feel it is the right time to quit. What will happen to your reputation when you do that? Perhaps your colleagues will see you as an opportunist who just leaves for money and throws the rest of them under the train. Perhaps even your spouse may ask a question whether you are a quitter and would leave if things go rough for two of you?

Be a leader

Captain stays with the sinking ship. It is the rats who run. If you want to be seen as a leader you need to lead by example. You need to be there for your team when the ocean gets rough and you need to be the one who knows (or at least appears to know) the way out of the storm. Your confidence, your enthusiasm and your continued dedication to the project or the company might be all what is needed to turn things around.

You as a leader are seen by others as having more knowledge of what’s happening and what the future might bring. The moment you start to be negative and moody your team will immediately interpret this as you knowing some bad news that they are unaware of yet. That in turn will act as a distraction, it will fuel negativism within the team, it will demotivate others and impact negatively execution. The project will suffer and things will indeed get worse than they were before – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t give up

Real leaders hold the team together when things go sour. They have a vision and push relentlessly forward, maintaining positive and constructive approach. The team then follows and because of the focus on improving execution chances are that things will turn around and get better.

Know when to let go

So when is the right time to leave? The only way how to be sure what is the right thing to do is to see the big picture and what impact your actions have on the system around you. As a rule of thumb, you should never quit because you are trying to escape from something. You should quit only when you are marching towards something else. You shouldn’t run FROM what you don’t like, but you should run TOWARDS to what you like. Sounds like one and the same thing but it is not. If you try to escape something chances are that your new destination will not be the best there is. It will be just a bit better than the one you are fleeing.

If you decide to move and do something else you should do it at the time when you are reasonably fine with the current state of affairs and there is no crisis. In that situation chances are that you will be also be able to lessen the negative impact of your move and people may not even notice what you are doing because they are fine and your absence will not be noticed much.

Twitter type summary: “Captain stays with a sinking ship, it is the rats who run. Leader holds the team together when things go sour and leaves when they calm down.”

How do you know it is the right time for you to leave? Would you leave when the team feels down and demotivated or would you leave when everything goes smoothly?

Toastmasters: be a leader

When I was at university and planning my future I saw myself as a geeky software developer who sits all day long at his desk and writes great software. I’m rather introverted individual by nature so that sort of job really appealed to me. You don’t need to interact too much with the rest of the world, but at the same time you can create, build, contribute and see the fruition of your work helping other people doing their jobs. I started as I freelance developer, joined couple of start-ups and in couple of years joined a big multinational company. It was in 2004 when the mobile development revolution started and I joined a small group that was asked to develop mobile applications for smartphones.

I was one of the couple of developers in the team. I was good, I wasn’t the best, but somehow I found myself being the one who communicated with the rest of the business, who volunteered to do also non-development work. It was very uncomfortable for me. I felt that there are others better equipped, better communicators, more extroverted. But I didn’t give up. I pushed forward, continued to volunteer for tasks that even scared me and in couple of months I led a team, I lead a project and my transformation into a leader started.

What is leadership?

Gates, Branson, Jobs, Obama. What have these names in common? These people are leaders. They have the ability to look ahead, plan and execute by inspiring others. What are the skills you need to have to be like them? How do you learn the basics? You actively participate in Toastmasters meetings by taking various leadership roles.

To quote Ralph C. Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International, “But just what do we mean be ‘leadership?’ It would appear to be the capacity to look ahead, think ahead, plan ahead, and then influence other people to go ahead on the plan.”

Competent Leadership Manual

How can Toastmasters help to improve your leadership skills? It is by following not only the communication manuals but also the leadership track. The projects in Competent Leadership manual provide you with opportunities to learn leadership skills by participating in various roles during the club meetings. You will learn the skills by regular and frequent practice in a safe, friendly environment.

What do you practice?

  • Listening
  • Critical Thinking
  • Giving Feedback
  • Time Management
  • Planning and Implementation
  • Organization and Delegation
  • Facilitation
  • Motivation
  • Mentoring
  • Team Building

What does it take?

As many things in life, it is all about preparation and perseverance. Do you remember when you were a kid and tried to ride a bike for the first time? You really wanted it, it looked cool, but you were also scared a bit. And you tried. You fell down, it hurt, but you got up and tried again and again. You were persistent and finally… “Look daddy I’m riding!” The same goes to leadership.

When you are asked to step up and take a role or additional responsibilities just sum up the courage and say “Yes, I will do it”. Just take it seriously, start preparing, ask for help and don’t be afraid to try it. And what is the most important – be persistent.

So if you are like many other people and you are uncomfortable stepping up and taking tasks that you have never done before, remember, that anything worth of doing is worth doing badly at the beginning. Don’t worry how others will see your efforts, don’t be scared of feedback, just take the courage, take the first step and take on a new leadership responsibility. It is fine to feel uncomfortable, it is fine to make mistakes, it is fine to stumble. With each repetition you will get better and better and before you know it you will get comfortable with the role, and you will become a leader.

Twitter type summary: “As many things in life, becoming a good leader is about willingness to try, humility, preparation and perseverance.”

For more information visit the official Toastmasters page at http://www.toastmasters.org/

What are your leadership stories? Do you remember the first time you had to step up and lead? Do you remember the first time you tried something new?