When you’re in high-growth mode it can be easy to put your energy toward running the day-to-day business and table plans to focus on people and organizational issues until things calm down. But do they ever?
In order to scale rapid growth within an organization, emerging leaders must be actively identified and developed. A core focus for the established leadership team should be to inspire additional leaders from the bench, not to amass more followers.
Many maintain leaders are born that way, while others believe leadership is an acquired skill. I believe it’s a combination, as long as you have the drive in your DNA. It’s your experiences, choices, opportunities and vision that drive this DNA to the forefront and help you achieve those coveted leadership skills.
Here are four fundamentals that can help you evolve from a good manager to a great leader.
1. Listen, empathize and form emotional connections. Leaders learn a lot about their organizations just by listening and empathizing with employees.
As a leader, I believe it’s critical to involve and deeply consider many different points of view when embarking on a change, decision, or new direction.
Put yourself in the shoes of not only the person sitting across from you in the boardroom but those of every employee, customer, partner and shareholder.
Taking on issues from many points of view up, down and across the organizational chart helps you not only fully grasp what’s ahead and find new solutions but enables you to connect individuals and teams to a cause bigger than themselves.
2. Create a common vision. Strong management is unquestionably an important business skill but one that can sometimes be confused with leadership.
Good managers run a tight and organized ship and drive teams to produce intended results but that doesn’t necessarily imply leadership. There are many distinctions between a good manager and great leader, key among them is the ability to clearly communicate a vision, and subsequently motivate others to get behind it.
Once that vision is developed, just stating it isn’t enough. Translate the vision to your team through the use of tangible metaphors, shared experiences or common ideas. This brings concepts to life and helps the team buy in to the idea of tackling something large together.
Related: 6 Key Tips for Leading by Example
3. Inspire yourself first and others will follow. To inspire someone implies motivating them to go past what they thought was the limit of their capabilities. But it’s difficult to inspire action or change in others if you’re unable to find inspiration yourself.
Being willing to try new things outside your comfort zone ensures you’re continuously challenged, constantly learning and finding success in new areas.
By pushing ourselves first, we can drive every individual and the broader organization to deliver more than they thought possible. Inspiring others beyond their comfort zones will help your team achieve great things.
4. Building the team. As I’ve moved across organizations and roles, I’ve often found myself staring at the task of building a new product, team or business. Pondering the enormity of the task after one change, I received some valuable advice. A mentor simply said, “You have to bring the band together first, and the music will follow.”
Management often focuses on the predetermined milestones they want to hit, whether it’s a certain level of revenue, launching a product or expanding into a region. They then determine the human capital needed to achieve these goals and focus on staffing up teams.
That’s backward. The band should always come first. Once a high-functioning team is in place and aligned around a common vision, the music will follow. There may be detours, but with the right team in place, you’ll find they’re inspired to do more together and better than ever possible on their own.
Don’t fall back on the belief that leaders are born, not bred. Regardless of how you’ve viewed your leadership potential in the past, each of us has the ability to hone and nurture skills to become a great leader.