What is the secret to creating a strong leadership presence when our main duties are managing?
Let’s look at what usually takes up most of our time; managing work, problems, people and ourselves.
Managing is all about ensuring the production of consistently excellent outcomes. To get there, we strive to deliver consistency by managing through objectives, holding people accountable for clear, measurable results, and developing systematic and well-integrated processes. The focus in managing is learning from the past and applying it to the present, and solving problems with sound decisions. These critical behaviors ensure our stakeholders—our customers—get what they expect day after day, year after year. Without these results, nothing else matters. They are the foundation on which we build our credibility and reputation.
Now let’s look at what behaviors make up “leading.” Leading is about anticipating the future based on trends and other “leading indicators,” and developing plans to leverage that future for a competitive advantage. How can you distinguish the work of your team, department, and project by becoming more effective, efficient, and generating greater customer satisfaction and results? Leadership behaviors inspire the commitment of others in sharing and executing a vision and plan. Leadership behaviors open new possibilities for the organization and enlist the commitment of others toward a shared vision of the future. These are the behaviors that can inspire others to follow you.
It’s not possible to be effective without managing. However, leadership is also necessary to inspire followership. Here are three ways to become viewed as a leader:
Ask future-oriented questions
Asking provocative questions can help shift your team’s attention to considering answers. It’s a very powerful way to engage others’ thinking. Choose questions to ask that don’t have easy and obvious answers such as, “what do our customers need that they aren’t getting from anyone else?” “How else can we look at this problem?” and “What are the trends/data saying will help us improve our results?”
Questions can unlock the creative and intellectual potential within those looking for an opportunity to grow. Our questions can help nurture the knowledge, experience, and energy within others so they can engage and grow. Helping to stimulate the engagement and growth of untapped capacity exhibits your leadership presence.
Create a vision of the future and share it
Think about what is possible for you, for others, and the organization. Then write it down. Make it brief and clear. Include its benefits to others and the organization. Then share it with others in a way that engages their input. Ask them, “What merits does this have?” “What are some concerns or risks to watch out for?” “How can this be achieved?” These questions invite their engagement.
Follow up to hold others accountable
The key to effectively leading is results. You can’t achieve growth just through setting higher and higher targets. You need to tap into the hidden and often suppressed capacity of those around you through effective leadership. Following up with others and helping them see progress is essential. Also, expressing deep appreciation for their efforts and contributions helps others to see you as a leader they want to please.