“You won’t get along with everyone. The trick is to know when to hide it and when to burn their house down and blame Sand People.”
Do you consider yourself a leader? Are you raising a leader? What does it even take to be a leader these days?
Unfortunately, as the pretty hilarious DeathStar PR Tweet above states: Some believe it’s about demonstrating power, but when it doesn’t work out too well, then it becomes about how well you can hide mistakes or blame it on others.
As we say in the Frey household: Blame is Lame. And as such, let’s get into the first lesson of true leadership. If you master these three, you’ll be the darling of corporate America, your own company, or the best camp counselor that ever was.
P.s. This is based on 25+ years of working with senators, CEOs, and everyone in between. I’ve seen the rise and shines, and I’ve seen the crash and burns. I’ve counted myself among the charred and the medal winners, and I’ve learned a lot both on and off the sidelines. Here’s the common patterns of the winners boiled into three points:
Lesson 1: Leadership is about making it right, not making it about you.
When Helen walked into her boss’s office, she knew there was a crisis. “There is a huge problem,” her boss started in. “Sales for our event are at about 50% of where they need to be. The last promotion didn’t work.” Helen was in charge of the last promotion. And, while it would be easy to talk about the small budget she was given to work with, and a variety of other reasons why it wasn’t her fault, Helen said the following. “Okay, I hear you, and I’d like an hour to brainstorm our best ideas with the team and present them back to you to get our sales back on track. Our other option would be to look into less expensive venues and run a profitable event that way. I could run both scenarios as a Plan A and Plan B if you prefer.” The truth is, Helen’s boss hadn’t even thought about a Plan B, she was so focused on Plan A. She very much liked Helen’s solution-oriented and conservative approach should they not meet their sales projections. A situation in which Helen could have come out looking very bad, actually made Helen shine as a level-headed leader.
Owning it – the fresh air of leadership
Helen demonstrates the trait of ownership and treats the company as if is her own by developing a Plan B and not making excuses. Would you make excuses if it were your own company? Maybe if you had a business death-wish of sorts.
When there is a crisis, duck and cover or “it’s not my fault” may be the default reaction of a novice. Often, this is the knee-jerk of one who feels the need to defend their actions not only to the outside world, but also to themselves.
Lesson 2: Leadership is about confidence.
Leaders have intrinsic confidence. Some are introverted, some are extroverted, but they don’t need someone to constantly tell them “this is the right answer.” Natural leaders will usually have a framework for making decisions. Take Tanya and Cami. They are both running projects at the same organization. Tanya gets as far as she can using the skills she’s developed in training, having listened carefully and taken notes. She has confidence in her systems for organization, learning, and carrying out those systems with her team. Cami is plagued with self-doubt. Because this is new, every time she runs into a moment of doubt (or even bad note-taking) she defaults to questioning her boss (the most expensive person in the organization). She thinks this is smart – to double check with her boss “just to be sure” – but after asking the same question about the same topic about three times, her boss begins to realize Cami lacks confidence. Tanya and Cami both finish the project, but Tanya has done it more efficiently, used fewer firm resources, and demonstrated more leadership potential than Cami. All because of one trait: Confidence. Probably some other things too, like having your general act together from the get-go. But, for now, let’s focus on confidence.
How can you bestow the gift of confidence?
- The time-tested social learning theory builds confidence. Have a positive experience, surround yourself with positive people that send you positive messages, and then reinforce that message yourself. This is WAY over-simplified, of course, but the general idea. As a leader or a parent, providing the first step is critical: Opportunities to have a confidence-building experience. (Not, everyone gets a trophy but good old-fashioned try hard, feel good about it = confidence).*
- Dad – your early relationship with your daughter is a huge determinant of self confidence.
- The Hot Mommas Project measurably increases confidence. We build it into all of our learning tools.
*Interesting fact: Did you know that someone in the mental health profession is actually responsible for the development of the everyone-gets-a-trophy trend? We’re not going to call anyone out here, but, just thought you’d like to know. Back to our regularly-scheduled program…
Lesson 3: Leadership is about making dreams come true.
We’ve heard it before: People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This is not new. But how? This is the tricky part. The best leaders do it two ways, like Karina. First, she got her team around the table one day to solve a problem. They were starting a new division. They had built it. No one was coming. Uh oh. They went around the table each throwing out an idea. Who had the winning idea? An intern. It changed the face of the company. It was brilliant. And in one meeting, everyone understood that they were valued. They were ALL part of making the dream – the vision – of the company come true.
The other way Karina made dreams come true was this type-A “too busy to blink” shocker: Karina was interested in others. She genuinely had an interest in others and was happy to see them succeed. She asked staff about their dreams. Karina had one-on-one meetings with team members and said, “What is YOUR dream?” then kept a “team dreams” board. Each team member’s dream had an empty box by it. When she or someone in the company helped them achieve it, the box was checked. One person’s dream was to start their own business. Another’s was to get their master’s degree. By helping the team achieve their dreams, she had not just employees, but a loyal team beyond anything she’d ever experienced.
P.s. Can you do all the things above and then go out and be a total wanker? No.
Use common sense here people. But, use the triad above, and you’ll be 90 percent of the way there.
P.s.s. Leadership is something we civilians pretty much repackage and then repackage again from the armed forces. So, consider going to the source and reading Abrashoff’s It’s Your Ship. Reading about real life and death leadership instead of cubicle leadership is a humbling eye-opener for all of us. Better yet, start a book club and get a bunch of folks to read it. No matter what level you are, this is a leadership move in your organization to spur team building and self-development.
QUIZ: There is a final trait I have not mentioned. It is a bit harder to guess, and – thus – part of the reason I didn’t write about it. Any takers? What are qualities you’ve noticed in leaders that you like that are not covered in the above – maybe we’ll hit on it.
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The research arm of the Hot Mommas® Project is housed at the George Washington University School of Business, Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence along with a nationally ranked women’s entrepreneurship program taught by the Hot Mommas® Project founder.