Leaders Lead First

EM Kelly lets goGreat leaders like to come in first – they want to win. Not just for their personal benefit, but for their company, team and each employee.

For great leaders to win, they do need to be first and most importantly they need to lead first.

Here are a few areas where great leaders always lead first:

Descend from the Ivory Tower

We frequently hear about famous people making personal visits with their fans. After those visits, someone invariably says, “They were so down to earth.” Why is that a compliment? Because the fans feel connected to their favorite singer, sports star, or actor when they see them acting like a regular person.

This is the same with leaders. People expect leaders to lead from the top of the mountain, but understand the impact at the bottom of the mountain. They want to feel connected to the person who plays a large part in their chances for success. People don’t want to hear “Go,” as E.M. Kelly said, people want to hear the leader say “Let’s Go!”

Leaders lead first by taking the initiative to invest time being with their teams.

Demonstrate what is right

Steve Jobs once said, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.”  Your team is watching and listening to everything you do – make it count.

If there is a fast approaching deadline and the team needs to work some extra hours to finish – great leaders will be there with them. If there is new process put in place that each employee needs to follow – great leaders follow it.

Don’t just tell people what you want them to do, show them. As Henry David Thoreau said,  “People will believe what they see. Let them see it.”

Leaders lead first by taking the initiative to lead by example.

Delegate implementation

A leader sets vision, goals, and timelines and lets employees decide how to achieve. No one wants to be told what to do every step of the way. Remember, if you always tell your employees how to do everything, you will have to always tell them how to do everything.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executives are the ones who have sense enough to pick good people to do what they want done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

Leaders lead first by taking the initiative to let their team take the initiative.

What is the measure of a leader?

measure of a leaderThe only true measure of a leader is in the followers.

John Maxwell once asked, “If you’re all alone as a leader, are you really leading?” He went on to say, “If you think you are leading and no one is following, you are only taking a walk.”

With all due respect to social media (I use it myself), but the measure of a leader is not just in the number of followers; it is in the success of followers.

Why do followers follow leaders? In the short run it could just be the latest fad – everyone else is…or it could be that they are looking for something big. In the long run, if you see a leader with committed followers it’s because they are successfully fulfilling these three needs of every follower:

Strategy – Opportunity – Priority

Strategy. Everyone wants to be a success in their life. Each of us wants personal success along with all that we are involved in to be successful. We want the team to win, and we want to be a winning part of that team. The first measure of a leader is their ability to devise a strategy for that to happen for every member of the team.

According to Tom Rath, author of six NYT and WSJ bestsellers on the role of human behavior in business, health, and well-being, “Followers need to see how things will get better and what that future might look like.”

Opportunity. Each person is gifted with abilities unique to them. The key to individual and team success is to use the abilities of each person. The second measure of a leader is how well they connect their followers to opportunities that use their strengths.

Sochiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motors, talked about a Japanese proverb that says, “Raise the sail with your stronger hand,” and explained that it meant, “You must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.”

Priority. There are always more ideas and projects than any team can accomplish in limited time with limited resources – and do them well. Prioritization is a requirement of winning people and teams. The third measure of a leader is do they give their followers permission to not do some things so they can do great things.

Bestselling author and expert on high performance human achievement, Denis Waitley, says this about prioritizing, “Don’t be a time manager, be a priority manager. Cut your major goals into bite-sized pieces. Each small priority or requirement on the way to the ultimate goal becomes a mini goal in itself.”

Successful communication requires a relationship

communication and relationshipCombining communication with a relationship requires preparation. Mark Twain said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

There are three questions you must answer to prepare for successful communication:

Who are you communicating with? If you don’t have a relationship, then communication is about building one. If you do have a relationship then communication is about building upon it.

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” – Stephen Covey

Why are you communicating?  Never communicate without a purpose. Sharing, teaching, learning, entertaining – all good reasons to communicate. Each one comes with an expectation of an action being taken which builds upon the relationship.

“The two words information and communication are often used interchangeable, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” – Sydney J. Harris

How are you communicating?  Communicating in a relationship is a dialogue not a monologue. Success is not in the giving, but in the receiving. Put yourself in the seat of the audience (one person, or many people) and communicate in the way they need to hear so they understand.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins

Are you really ready for a change?

change machineIt has been said that people are only ready to accept the need for change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. Robert Brault opined, “We want the life we have now, only happier,” but alas, it doesn’t work that way.

When change comes, and it comes to everyone, we all react. There is a Chinese Proverb that separates our reaction into two extremes, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”

I think we make change harder than it has to be. George Carlin had the right idea when he joked, “I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.”

Now it’s not that easy, but there are steps you can take if you are really ready for a change:

Identify what you need to change.

I had a doctor who once told me that my headache was not due to a deficiency in ibuprofen. The headache was the symptom, the cause was the way I was exercising…that is what needed to be changed.

If you are really ready for a change, don’t settle for symptoms. Dig in and get to the root cause and change that.

“Do not let circumstances control you. You change your circumstances.” – Jackie Chan

Identify what you need to do to change.

The only thing we can control is ourselves, our actions, and our reactions. Any type of action that is taken in an effort to change anything must therefore involve you.

Focus your efforts of change on yourself and being the best you, you can be.

“I think the most productive thing to do during times of change is to be your best self, not the best version of someone else.” – Seth Godin

Identify what you will do after you change.

Congratulations! You are new and improved. Your life is better, you see things more clearly, and your outlook is positive. Now that you have changed, what’s next?

Change can’t be just about you. Take advantage of what you have learned, and what you can now do and help others with your newly developed talents.

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” – Peter Drucker

Do you deserve success?

success climbYes you deserve success. Not only do you deserve success, you need to be successful.

Andy Andrews is a wonderful author and a gifted speaker. I attended one talk where he spoke about people in the world that will be able to one day help his young sons in some way. He didn’t know who they were, or when or how they would help, but was sure that their paths would cross. In order for his sons to be all they could be, he needed these people to be all they could be.

In his book, The Butterfly Effect, Andy says it like this, “Everything you do matters. Every move you make, every action you take matters. Not just to you, or your family, or your business or hometown. Everything you do matters to all of us forever…There are generations yet unborn, whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take.”

So for those of you who doubt whether you deserve success, here are three steps you can take to get you back on that path of success that we all need you to be on:

Define success differently

Too often we define success as our personal achievement – how much more we got this time. True, fulfilling, success is not you getting more, it is you helping others get more. When your definition of success shifts to be this outward focus, it is easier to believe you deserve success.

“Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.” – Christopher Reeve

Define your past differently

Your past mistakes are only failures if you fail to learn from them. When finding a way to positively deal with mistakes Napoleon Hill advised, “Ask yourself: What did I learn from this experience that I can put to good use next time?”  If you view your past in this light, you will not get discouraged and continue to believe you deserve success.

Long time Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger said, “The past is a great place and I don’t want to erase it or to regret it, but I don’t want to be its prisoner either.”

Define your future differently

The best thing you can do to be a success is work to be the best you, you can be, and surround yourself with others who are the best they, they can be. Together you can accomplish great things. If you focus your future on simply being everything you were made to be, you will believe you deserve success.

“Success is…knowing you did your best to become the person you are capable of becoming.”- John Wooden

Want to make an impact? Shift your focus.

focus to impactThe human eye has an amazing ability to shift its focus from far in the distance to right in front of us in an instant. Touch screens use “Pinch to Zoom” to shift the focus of a picture, document, or webpage in and out using two fingers.

Whether we focus on the eye or touch screens, the ability to shift your focus is paramount to having an impact on anything.

Repeat these three steps continuously to have successful impact:

 

Start with a distant focus

In leadership we often talk about setting a vision. Vision is where you paint the picture of success that allows you to build the plan to achieve it.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”­ – Vincent Van Gogh

Zoom in to a near focus

If you want to impact the world, start with impacting your company. If you want to impact your company, start with impacting your team. If you want to impact your team, start with impacting one individual.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” – Walt Disney

 Expand back to the distant focus

Once we get involved in the day to day plans it’s easy to forget why we are doing what we do. The road to success is often long and winding. Unless you expand your focus once in a while you won’t know if you are still on track.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal.” – Mario Andretti

 

Pause, and let life catch up

einstein_bike pause to think

Are things going the way you want them – your career, your company, your project? Whether they are or not you should take time to pause once in a while.

Are you sure that you are heading in the right direction? Whether you think you are or not, you should pause every so often.

It’s important to take time to pause, and let life catch up.

 

A pause lets you think

When asked about his Special Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein is reported to have quipped, “I thought of it while riding my bicycle.” Talk about a pause that changed the world.

Think what you could do if you paused to think on a regular basis. Ok, so you might not discover how space and time interact like Einstein did, but you could be one step closer to a breakthrough in your field if you would take time to pause and think.

A pause lets you see the whole picture.

In music, the pause is just as important as the notes. The whole piece is made up of many beats where there is no sound as well as beats where there is sound. In comedy, timing is everything. The master of waiting for the right moment was Jack Benny. His advice was, “It’s not so much knowing when to speak, as when to pause.”

If you are always doing something, you can’t see how what you have done is fitting together. Pause and take a step back to see the whole picture so you don’t get too narrowly focused on any one thing.

A pause lets you plan

Once you pause to think and take a look at the big picture, it would be a waste if you didn’t take what you now know and make it part of your future plan. Time management expert Alan Lakein once said that, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

Pause, read the signs, and make sure you are still heading in the right direction.

What to do with an unsolvable problem.

Question MarkToo many times people face problems that they deem unsolvable. They stop trying to solve the problem by saying, “It is what it is.”

But is it?

An unsolvable problem is really just a problem where the solution has not yet been identified.

Why do some people solve enormous problems while others give up? According to Bill Hybels, “Visionary people face the same problems everyone else faces; but rather than get paralyzed by their problems, visionaries immediately commit themselves to finding a solution.”

Here are the steps that will help you solve those unsolvable problems:

Re-Group

Just because you can’t see the answer to a problem doesn’t mean the answer isn’t already there. The odds are that someone, somewhere, has faced the same problem and at least stumbled upon the answer. Trust that you will find it, somewhere else, if you look.

“If you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world, or in the room, you’ve got real problems.” – Jack Welch

Re-Grip

Prepare yourself to hang on long enough to find that solution. Look around you. Where are other successes happening? Who is having those successes? How are they having those successes? Select from the many choices you will find and take hold of what will work for your problem.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”- Albert Einstein

Re-Commit

Now that you have decided to solve the unsolvable problem, and you chose the right solution, commit to give it all you’ve got.

“It’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti

Comparison or Contentment

You can always find someone who is great at any one thing. When we compare our total self to each one great thing and want to be all great things rolled into one we lose the opportunity for contentment. Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Contentment does not mean doing less than you are capable of achieving, it means being content with all you are capable of achieving.

Focus on your strengths, not other people’s strengths. Be your best, not other people’s best. This is the key to your individual success and contentment.

This is where the power of a team comes in handy. A team is made up of many individuals each with unique strengths. If each person on the team is content with doing their best at their position, then you can accomplish great things.

“Try not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine. Softball is amazing that way as a sport. Everyone on the field has a slightly different ability that makes them perfect for their position” – Jennie Finch, Collegiate All-American and Gold Medal Women’s Softball Pitcher.

However, even teams can get caught in the trap of comparison. Just like individuals, you can always find one team who is great at any one thing. Be the team you decide to be using the combined strengths you possess then be the best at it. You can’t be all things to all people.

As comedian Steven Wright joked, “You can’t have everything…where would you put it?”

From Strings To Wings

It seems odd at times, but the ultimate success of being a mentor is when you can cut the strings because you are no longer needed.

Successful mentoring doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an investment of time – yours and the person being mentored. But the return on your investment is worth it.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “If you want a harvest in one year, grow a crop. If you want a harvest in ten years, grow trees. If you want a harvest that lasts a lifetime, grow people.”

Some compare mentoring to a classroom where knowledge is taught. There is definitely a transfer of wisdom, but it isn’t so much taught as it is learned – through experience.

The best mentoring takes place through the process of trying out what is taught. The great scientist, Albert Einstein, had much to teach and was a professor of science at various time in his life. He is quoted as saying, “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

It is important that mentors share what they know, but it is equally important to help people discover what they already know. Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The greatest good you can do for an individual is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to them their own.”

Once people realize all that they can accomplish, then they are ready to fly.

 

 

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