Just because you have the title of "leader" doesn't make you are a leader. And just because you don't have the title of leader doesn't mean you aren't a leader.
People are called upon to do many things - both inside and outside of the workplace. Those who have the courage to do the right things, especially when the right things are difficult to do, deserve the title of leader.
Consider the following:
- Do you have the courage to give a team member direct feedback or do you hide behind disciplinary documentation without providing feedback and coaching first?
- Do you have the courage to take a pay cut before asking your team members to take a pay cut in tough economic times?
- Do you have the courage to call-out a fellow team member when he or she makes an inappropriate sexual comment to a co-worker or do you stand by idly and say nothing because you are afraid it might result in more harassment complaints?
- Do you have the courage to communicate your difference of opinion during a meeting in which everyone is thinking alike?
The fastest way to losing credibility as a leader is to avoid tackling these situations head on.
Do you have the courage to lead?
Often times, people want a silver bullet on how to be a leader. They want a fancy model, an academic explanation, or some psychological theory. But leadership comes down to doing some basic things and having the courage to do them consistently. We call this People-First Leadership™ and it involves 4 factors:
1. Alignment - Get people working on the right things by clarifying direction, roles, and responsibilities.
2. Collaboration - Get people working on the right things together by building a foundation of trust through open communication and shared problem solving.
3. Motivation - Keep people motivated by learning how to communicate with them on a personal and individual level and by aligning rewards and recognition based on their individual preferences. Treating everyone the same way isn’t effective.
4. Learning - Learn by example and always provide opportunities to keep your people learning. Learning inspires growth, it crushes complacency, and it nurtures innovation.
Do those 4 things every day and you might live up to the title of “leader”. But if you don’t have the courage to stand up for something in the face of adversity, if you choose to take the easy way out to save face or minimize risk, and if you won’t stand up for your people first, then move out of the way and make room for someone who will be Leader.