How do you improve your own ability to lead?
Leadership is tricky. It’s more than the title you hold within your company or how many people you manage, but how far does its definition reach? What is leadership? What makes a leader, and how do you improve your own ability to lead?
Plenty of definitions exist explaining what a leader is, and we have the entire history of human civilization to look to for examples of different kinds of leaders and the traits they shared. And you could study each of these examples to come to your own conclusions about what leadership truly is — but if you did that, you’d probably never have any time to lead.
So what I’ve done is ask around and listen in on social media conversations to see what people today think of leadership. A popular quote I’ve heard from others in my space is “The best leadership tool you have is your own example.” It got me thinking about the power of personal examples and how you can set the tone for your company through your own example.
If you’re careless in your relationships and interactions with people, your example isn’t going to be one that anyone wants to imitate. Instead, leading by example requires you to be self-aware and work toward setting an example that your team members (and even your peers or competitors) are excited to follow.
Your own example is the most powerful leadership tool you have. If you want to strengthen that tool, here are five things you can do:
1. Get in the trenches (without getting trapped in the weeds).
As a kid, one of my favorite business stories was hearing about Sam Walton putting on an apron and packing groceries so he could help his employees and show them he’d been in their shoes. (And, by all accounts, he was a hell of a grocery packer.) As weird as it might seem that I was into business stories as a young kid, it’s something that’s stayed with me all this time.
When you, as a leader, step into someone else’s role, two really important things happen: You actually get better at your own job because you remember what it’s like to be in the trenches, and you show your employees that you get (and care about) what they do for the company. I’m not encouraging leaders to get trapped in the weeds, but when you see an opportunity to humanize yourself as someone who isn’t above certain tasks, take it.
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