One of this week’s 5 for 5 articles and a 1:1 with a colleague reminded me of an important distinction between people who are meant to lead and those who are not.
I truly enjoy the opportunity in my current role to meet 1:1 with many people both inside and outside of my team and discuss leadership. It is a chance to pass on things that I have learned over the years, but I also learn a lot about the person (and a lot about myself). Often, the conversation steers towards the person having a desire to lead. As I believe everyone has leadership capability within them, I am obviously excited to hear this, but I also take the opportunity to ask a simple question:
“Why do you want to be a leader?”
And while there is no perfect right answer, I do believe there is an answer that clearly shows whether the person is ready to lead, so I sit back to listen. It is typically not the content about wanting to create change or fix processes, but rather the focus or their perspective. If there person says “I” or “me” consistently in the discussion, it is a red flag. Becoming a leader means focusing on those you have been entrusted with. Leading is about building and developing a team. Yes, leaders need to reach for ambitious goals, create change and make a difference, but a leader cannot do any of these things if they are only focused on themselves. If the person I am meeting cannot see this, I know they are not ready to lead (in that moment).
A disappointing thing that I hear “me” people say is that when they are the leader they will make the changes we need to be more effective. Sadly, if these people cannot embrace the idea that they can lead changes from where they are, a position will not help that. Worse yet, a “me” person that does gain positional power may forsake the well being of those entrusted to them and “bulldoze” changes, when what they need to build the momentum that only comes through empowering and enabling those that work under you.
It is important to note though, especially for talking with younger team members, is to help them make the jump to understanding that leadership is more about others. Just like people rarely walk up to a car and start driving, many people have not been coached on the idea that leadership is serving others. If you are a leader or a mentor you have the opportunity to share this, encourage them to lead change now, but also encourage them to observe others leaders. Help them to see that making a difference happens through not only vision and will, but by building up those around you.
As the article below titled “Putting the ‘We’ in Leadership” notes, leaders are stewards. We are entrusted with those that are on our team. And leaders that understand this have the ability to take the “we” of a team to greater places than a “me” can ever go.
So, why do you want to be a leader?
Here’s this week’s 5 for 5 articles:
Putting the “We” in Leadership – by Theresa Johnson – via Stanford GSB
- SO WHAT: As with the blog this week, listen for how leaders talk about their roles.
- Tags: Leadership
The two-review technique – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog
- SO WHAT: One of the best things I read this week. Who are you working for – 5 star reviewers or minimizing the 1 stars?
- Tags: Leadership
Making the Leap From Disrupted to Adaptive – by Tim Sanders – via Sanders Says
- SO WHAT: An interesting infographic along with an interesting idea: to adapt, replace fear with curiousity.
- Tags: Leadership, Creativity
You Can Be Bitter, or You Can Get Better – by John Brubaker – via Entrepreneur
- SO WHAT: Another great example of where “we” differ from “me” people – getting better vs. bitter, respectively
- Tags: Leadership
A top recruiter on what anyone can see after 30 seconds with your resume – by Ambra Benjamin – via Quartz (H/T: Quora)
- SO WHAT: Long read, interesting ideas on how building our resume needs to change
- Tags: Career
All the best, kevin