If you think of yourself as a leader, the first test is who are you attracting? Leaders attract followers.
A real leader has a following. People are wired to follow something or someone. It is natural to want to pay attention to someone whom we respect and admire. I’m not talking about celebrity status (although we get hung up following them too, but for different reasons). Gaining insight, growth, and upward mobility comes from following a great leader.
Following strong, inspiring leaders is what we do. I once met a younger man who had left a very impressive executive role in a large, global company. His progress within that company had been stellar. There was a steady stream of growth opportunity with progressively increasing influence in the company. Yet one day he woke up and said “I don’t think there is anyone above me anymore who I can respect and want to emulate.”
On one hand, you might be thinking that is pretty pompous. Yet when you get to know this man, you realize he has high end leadership written all over him. He was born with some natural leadership talent. In addition, he has sought ways to improve his gift of leadership.
John Maxwell describes leadership talent on a scale of 1 to 10. If you are a 6, you might grow a few steps to become an 8 or 9. Those with scores of 9 or 10 attract the 6s, 7s, and 8s. The man in my story had grown to become a 7 or an 8. He was hungry to find some 9s and 10s to follow. He didn’t see any of those in the ladder above him.
Talking about the fail of the company to identify and hire 9s and 10s is another story. But for our hero, he made a decision to leave and seek other career advancement, finding mentors, coaches, and leaders who could show him how to become the 9 or 10 he knows he can be.
By the way, there was proof of his leadership influence. After he left the company, dozens of his former employees and direct reports reached out to seek his personal guidance for career change and growth for themselves. Everyone expressed their appreciation for the way had had led them and how much he had inspired their path. Now that is attraction!
Think back on former bosses or leaders around you. If you counted yourself as a follower, take a look at why you followed them. Was it for intelligence; the topical knowledge of the industry? Or was it their wisdom; great experience from the past? Was it the way they engaged with the team? Could you trust them? Were you inspired whenever they spoke about the vision for the business? The list goes on.
You too can be that kind of leader. I like the Maxwell way of explaining it. 10s attract 9s, 9s attract 8s, and so on and so on. You grow in leadership by finding someone who demonstrates just a little more capacity for leadership than you have right now.
Last week we lost General Norman Schwarzkopf. He was quoted saying
“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”
Schwarzkopf has a legacy of leadership, building, growing and developing great leaders below him. He did that at all levels of his career. As a battalion commander in Vietnam, he inherited one of the worst organizations deployed there. Every measure of military proficiency was poor for this outfit. The worst number was the death rate among the men of the battalion. Schwarzkopf quickly went into action, using the tools and wisdom he had (even though he was still young in his career). The morale of the unit began to change, People started paying attention to training exercises. Proficiency increased. More importantly the death toll dropped radically because the unit was now operating with a proper, high level of military proficiency.
Leadership can make the difference. You can grow as a leader, but you have to find those who are a little more advanced to follow.
Back to the point. If you consider yourself a leader, who is following you? Are you investing in their growth and development? Do you inspire such a following?
If not, and you want to be a leader, perhaps you need to learn more about leadership. Step out and find the ones you can follow. In my early days of leadership training, we had a mantra.
[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]You have to learn to be a follower before you can be a leader.[/shareable]
As the years have gone by, that phrase took on new meaning for me. I realized following a better leader makes you become better yourself. Leaders have to position themselves in ways to grow and nurture their following while seeking the means to grow themselves. You’re never too big to find someone with just a little more wisdom, knowledge, and skill than you have.
If I told you to raise your arm and reach up, you would go just so far. But If I then said now try a little further, you could do it. We all can reach a little further than we first thought.
Have a great 2017! Make your reach as far as you can!
[callout]If you are looking for coaching and leadership development to take your influence to a new level, contact us at HeadwayExec.[/callout]