I’m a pretty decent cook who loves to try new and sometimes unusual recipes. I always follow the step by step instructions – at least the first time I try a recipe. After that, I can improvise to make a dish that is my own.
Oh how I wish great leadership were so simple that it could be condensed into a recipe. The truth is, that leaders aren’t just born (although they might be), and if they aren’t, they need learn to be great leaders. That learning can be difficult and complex. In our rough and tumble business world, with high stress, big stakes and lightning fast movement, greatness is becoming more elusive for those who strive to achieve it.
Yet you can find your way to great leadership. I’ve had the privilege of watching ordinary leaders become great. When that happens, the following results occur:
Confidence is prevalent. Not only in the leader, but in their team members.
Talent emerges. Direct reports discover they have hidden strengths. New talent wants to work for that leader.
Cohesiveness materializes. The organizational vision and mission are clear and all stakeholders are supportive and engaged in it.
Results are achieved. Missions are accomplished on time and within budget.
Opportunities arise. The leader may get solicited to work at a bigger and broader initiatives with their company and elsewhere.
Isn’t that what you would like to have happen? But where do you start without a recipe for great leadership? Begin with cultivating your capacity for becoming:
Observant: When you can observe your own actions and emotions, as well as be cognizant of what is going on with your team, you can be more responsive to change. Lose the distractions and develop a focus on what is happening in front of you. Being observant is the first step toward using strengths and dealing with the gaps in yourself, your team members and the work you are doing.
Genuine: When you act with integrity and stay true to your values, you will not only be more confident of your actions, but you will also build trust with your stakeholders and others around you. To cultivate this kind of honesty in yourself, you need know what you value, have an intention to act accordingly, and create space for reflection time to become clear about the path ahead.
Flexible: Since your organization is changing rapidly in response to the external environment, you have to be willing to make quick decisions and embrace constant change. Many a leader has been brought down when they aren’t willing or able to see that a change needs to be made. Open yourself up to the experience of frequent reassessment to take action on new learning, skills and directions that allow you and your team to be responsive to what is happening.
Unfortunately, there is no recipe for becoming a great leader. Being observant, genuine and flexible set the ground work to help you to be the best you can be. From that foundation, you can improvise and learn to be a great leader in your own way.