Monday, December 28, 2015

Is your Leadership a Well-Kept Secret?

Shhh… yes, you. The one in the corner (office). If you are the leader, you are doing a great job of hiding it. While we sometimes accuse others of failing to exhibit the qualities and traits we expect of leaders, often we are the ones hiding our leadership. Sometimes, our leadership is a well-kept secret.

When I am not feeling particularly leader-worthy, I find myself avoiding others and evading my responsibilities. Then it hits me… I am not acting like the leader I want to be. Maybe it’s time to face the reality that you are not always the leader that you think you are. Sometimes you retreat into hiding and your leadership is nowhere to be seen. Maybe this is temporary… or maybe not!

As I speak to and work with leaders, I have discovered three common issues that tend to mask leadership. Your leadership may be a well-kept secret if you are selfish, closed-minded or disengaged. The following three questions serve to test the transparency of our leadership. I wonder which of these issues most affects your leadership?

Are you a selfish leader? Leadership is influence and we achieve this through relationships. When we put our needs before those of the team we abandon the relationship. Our focus is inward and we are no longer generous with our time and talents, we become desensitized to others and their needs. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed it this way, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” When we are selfish, our actions no longer align with the expectations of our role and our leadership becomes destructive.

Are you a closed-minded leader? Leadership is inclusive and we achieve this by listening to and respecting the ideas others bring to the table. When we find ourselves becoming intolerant and unreceptive to new ideas we put the team at risk. We lose our humility, begin to make poor decisions and ultimately our confidence can be impacted. We become less approachable and others begin to write us off. Businessman Bo Bennett suggested “The only place opportunity cannot be found is in a closed-minded person.” When we stop considering new ideas and listening to others, we close the door on new opportunities and growth.

Are you a disengaged leader? Leadership is connection and we achieve this by engaging with others. When we find ourselves reacting to problems and being unprepared to lead we may sever the bond between leader and team. Our communication suffers, we lose vision and clarity and we start blaming others for the problems. We begin to appear insincere and less authentic. Steve Jobs said it best, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” If we are disengaged from our team, none of us are doing great work.

It has been said that the hallmark of a great leader is the questions she asks. I have proposed three questions that we need to ask ourselves to ensure our leadership is fully available to those we serve. When we lead from a place of selfishness, closed-mindedness and disengagement, we hide the best part of who we are and lose the ability to lead effectively. When we are selfless, we lead with influence, we are inclusive and we engage others. What did you discover when you asked yourself these three questions?