Lead By Example – The best way to influence others is through your own example. Don’t wait for others to change. Be the change you want to see.
Start by Leading Yourself
Learning to lead yourself takes work. The learning part comes in developing those skills, attitudes and habits that make you a better leader. Leadership requires a commitment to continually educate and develop yourself, nurturing complex relationships and earning the respect of those you lead, those you follow, and those who either regularly or occasionally are part of your life. The journey begins inside. Therefore, the first person you must lead before you can lead others is yourself.
So how do we learn to lead ourselves?
First. Find out who you are. What kind of leader are you? What habits do you currently have? What are your skill sets that contribute to your leadership? These may be hard questions to answer. You may not like what you hear, either from yourself or others. Find a leader that you trust and appreciate. Ask him to assist you with these questions.
Second. Find out what skills you need to develop to be an effective leader. Make a list and a commitment to mastering those skills. Discipline yourself to take opportunities to learn and practice those skills. Discipline yourself to make changes in your habits and attitudes to develop better leadership skills.
Third. Commit to being a lifelong learner. You need to always stay a couple of steps ahead of those you lead. Get out in front with learning, practicing, and sharpening your leadership skills. There is always something new and there are always ways to improve. Perfection is a curious thing. It is something that can be seen, but moves farther away as you get closer. It forces us to get better.
Leading Vs. Managing–and the Best of Both Worlds
Now that you know how to lead yourself, let’s look at leading vs. managing. Managers manage processes, and procedures. Leaders inspire and motivate others to accomplish goals. Ask yourself, which definition applies to you? Are you a leader or a manager? Which would you rather be?
As you read the following list of distinctions, ask yourself if you are a leader or a manager:
- Managers develop policies and procedures. Leaders develop vision and strategy.
- Managers direct and control. Leaders motivate and inspire. Stated another way, Managers get people to do what needs to be done. Leaders get people to want to do what needs to be done (read that again if you need to; the distinction is subtle.)
- Managers explain “what we have to do.” Leaders explain “where we are going.”
- Managers give directions. Leaders ask questions.
- Managers are concerned with the here and now. Leaders are concerned with the long-view.
- Managers are bottom-line oriented. Leaders are big-picture oriented.
- Managers are concerned with projects. Leaders are concerned with people.
- Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
I see leading and management as complementary and related. Leading is more about who you are as a person; people want leaders who feel ‘follow-able.’ I have found that translates into six attributes: Vision, Passion, Courage, Wisdom, Generosity and Integrity. These attributes must be demonstrated on a daily basis to be seen as real (in other words, lip service and how you act in big meetings or crowds does not make you a leader). Management is the ability or discipline to follow processes and procedures to obtain a result. Management is more of a craft: it’s primarily skill-based, like cooking or carpentry.
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!
Sometimes in life we’re the leader, sometimes, we’re the follower, and sometimes the situation would be best handled by…well, someone else altogether. Here’s a Murren Way look at the three ways one can take on life:
In life there are times when it is you who must take the role of leader. This has nothing to do with a title or given role at work. There are many situations in your personal life as well as your professional life where you must take the lead. When you take the lead, you use your formal and informal leadership skills to set the vision and strive towards a goal. With Thomas Paine’s quote, I interpreted lead as the role you choose to take in a particular situation. You could either take the lead or be a follower. If you are to lead, then be sure you understand your role and that it comes with responsibilities to those who are following your lead to strive towards a common goal.
Another option in life is to follow the leader. There is nothing wrong with being a follower, and if this is your role in a situation, being a good follower is just as important as being the leader. As a follower, you play an important role to implement the tactics of the leader. We cannot always be the leader in all situations. At times we must take the role of the follower for things to happen. Some people accustomed to the leadership role find it extremely difficult to adapt to the role of follower. I have heard many times that to be a great leader you must also be able to be a great follower. The way I interpret this is that you gain leadership skills and traits by being a follower and being in the shoes of those you might lead in the future. Without an understanding of those you lead, you will never be able to gain the respect or understanding of those who follow you.
Get out of the way!
In life, there are leaders and followers as well as those who just seem to get in the way. You know the complainers who can tell you what is wrong but never have a solution. People who get in the way just slow the progress of a group that is striving towards a common goal.
For this quote, it gives you the three roles to choose from, leader, follower and if you are not part of the first two, then get out of the way to let those that wish to accomplish something do their thing. Why waste time getting in the way, unless of course you are a leader or follower of an opposing side, make way and yield to let others strive towards their goal.
This quote has been branded into my mind and the way I learned it was through living life and observing the roles that individuals play, including myself. Recognize your role and if you are not leading or following, GET OUT OF THE WAY!