What comes to mind when you hear the term Leader?
Someone who is at the top of an org chart? Someone who is a catalyst for change? Someone who impacts others by their actions? Innovative? Bold? Wise? Humble? Determined? Inquisitive? Vision-Oriented? Strategic?
Anyone can be a leader. It may look different, but ultimately it is about one thing: a choice to lead where you are at with what you have. You may not be at the top of the org chart, but keep in mind, it goes 3 ways.
‘The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves” –Ray Kroc
Leading Down– I hate saying “down”, but for the sake of the visual, we will use it. This is the person most expect as a leader at the top of the chart. They typically have the most responsibility, accountability and are expected to lead the team according to the vision and mission statement of the group or organization. We all know how this goes and I am sure we have all had both good and not-so-good people in these positions. If you are at the top, please lead well- learn your people. Study leadership practices and be humble about your own leadership style. Surround yourself with co-leaders that lead well where you lack and take responsibility. One of my favorite tools is Strengths Finder.
Leading Horizontally– This is peer-to-peer style. This matters a great deal because there are always leaders in the pack and like any social situation, you can identify who those people are just by observing. Everyone falls into this category. Lead well with the words you say about your own team, your superior or the organization. Lead well by being proactive with your work, providing solutions and not additional problems to the scenario. Lead well with your co-workers; be encouraging to them and learn each other’s strengths to better yourself and the job at hand. A visionary/ activator personality would want to brainstorm work methods with someone who is strategic and analytical. Why? They may have the same job, but do it entirely different. Combine their strengths to learn to do the job better and you have now done three things: Increased proficiency, improved personal development and maximized time well.
“If your actions inspire other to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quicny Adams
Leading Up– In my opinion, this is one of the most mis-understood and under-utilized approaches. Why? We rarely think that we can and maybe should help our superiors, but they are human and learning just like we are. This is where the leaders separate themselves from the pack, people who are complacent complain, people who lead for positive change, learn to lead up. Below are some characteristics for leading up:
- Respectfully ask Questions- If your superior has an open door policy, asking clarifying questions for the task given should be welcomed. You are understanding the objective, clarifying the purpose and validating your approach
- Solution Oriented- There will continuously be things in life that we don’t like. Leading well looks like finding solutions or becoming creative with the approach to the problem/ situation rather than complaining and doing nothing. You, your co-workers, significant other and anyone else you interact will thank you for being positive and finding a solution rather than contributing to the problem by always complaining.
- Be Proactive- Your superior should be doing this continuously, but if you are also being proactive by looking at what is coming up in the next 30 days, the tasks that need to be accomplished and the supporting factors for that situation, your superior will so appreciate you doing that. Being proactive gives you more control and flexibility of the month ahead by spreading out responsibilities and being prepared for what’s ahead rather than scrambling last-minute.
“Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”- Reed Markham