The Comfortable Leader – The First Step
I have coached many leaders and folks moving into leadership roles. Some have a natural bent toward leading and some are less clear about it. Most though, have never given leadership much thought at all.
Who Am I?
The first step then in becoming a comfortable leader is developing an understanding of who you are, how you want to lead and what you want to accomplish in that role. I call this Coherence. Coherence is crucial to developing leaders because most people simply assume that when you arrive in a leadership role your experience and knowhow will be enough to ensure success. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Who Was Your Best Leader?
Good leaders are comfortable in their own skin. What I mean by that is that they have a pretty clear understanding of who they are and what style of leadership works for them. Often this understanding has come through our experiences with leaders we have had. We can all reflect on the leaders we flourished under and on the leaders that were a nightmare. Often those experiences serve to push us in certain directions in terms of what kind of leadership style we want to use or not use.
While this may serve as a foundation for our approach to leadership often it is subconscious in nature. What we need to do is explore in a deliberate sense how we view leadership in terms of what traits and qualities make a good leader. This is important because we need to be clear about what kind of a leader we want to be and what that looks like on a day to day basis. President Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk in which was inscribed the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.” It was for him a reminder of the kind of leader he wanted to be and how he would approach each issue.
Some people have a favorite painting or quote from a book that they keep nearby so that they can stay centered on the kind of leader they want to be. Whatever the case may be a good leader knows what works for them and stays with that approach. This is the first phase in Coherence.
What Do You Want To Accomplish?
The second phase is relative to the role you are taking on. If the first is knowing HOW you want to lead, then the second step is knowing WHAT you want to accomplish. What is it that you see need to be done in that position? Some of that will be set by company goals and objectives and those are paramount. But you should be able to look at that position and have a clear idea of a broader set of objectives for it. I call it vision.
Vision is critical to comfortable leadership. It becomes the rudder that keeps you on course when all the unexpected things come your way in the day to day rush of your work. It helps you fight through the noise of the “tyranny of the urgent” and stay focused on the important tasks and objectives. It becomes a touchstone when you are not sure about the next step or how to deal with a situation. You can ask the question; “does this advance progress toward our goals or inhibit it?”
The Consistency of Cohesion
Cohesion then is a key to comfortable leadership. It helps you remain consistent in your leadership choices and direction. This is something your team will come to appreciate and rely on. It will give them confidence in their work and decision making because they will know your style and expectations.
A Comfortable Choice
Herb Kelleher of founder Southwest Airlines demonstrated this type of coherence one time when a customer wrote him a letter to complain about a flight attendant who was making jokes during the pre-flight safety talk. Herb wanted employees with a sense of humor and they hired people who could display that as he felt that having fun was a key to customer experience at Southwest. He wrote a short response back and cc’d the flight attendant who was the focus of the complaint. His response? “Thank you for sharing your concern. I hope you find satisfaction with another carrier.” Herb knew how he wanted to lead, how he wanted his staff to lead and his response was entirely consistent with his approach.
Leadership is wrought with challenges and pitfalls. As leaders knowing yourself, your leadership style and what you want to accomplish. Coherence is key to overcoming these issues. You won’t ever need to second guess yourself and neither will your team. You both will thrive because of it. Performance Leadership – Think About It!
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