Don’t aspire to be a leader. Some of the time, it’s important to be a good follower. Set your sights on leading and not “being” a leader. No one is a leader everywhere and all the time.
Leading involves setting direction and pace for a group. There are two basic situations when you can practice leadership.
You May Be in a Leadership Position
If you’re in a leadership position, you’re responsible for the performance of a group. People expect you to lead.
When you’re in a leadership position, you have two jobs. One job is to accomplish the mission through the group. The other job is to care for the people in the group and help them grow and develop.
When you’re in a leadership position, you must do more than lead. You must also manage and supervise. Since leadership is your job, you can’t delegate the part about setting direction and pace. You can’t delegate the one-on-one supervision stuff, either. You can delegate some management work, but you’re still responsible for making sure it gets done.
When you’re in a leadership position, that’s your job. You can’t duck a situation that’s hard or uncomfortable. You must make difficult decisions. You must talk to people whose behavior or performance needs to improve.
You Can Lead Even if You’re Not the Person in Charge
You can lead even if you’re not in a leadership position. You have the advantage that you can pick your spots.
You can choose whether to step up or not. That means you can play to your strengths. You can choose to lead in situations where you can have an important impact.
Whether you’re in a leadership position or not, you should prepare to lead well.
Prepare to Lead Well
If you want to lead well, make that the focus of your development efforts. Pick books and courses that will help you. Use your reflection time to accelerate your growth. Find coaches and mentors who will help you lead the way you aspire to lead.
Master the context. Every team, company, and industry is unique. Learn the language and the challenges so you can understand what’s going on. Then you can make informed decisions and help others understand.
Develop your vision. Reflect on what your team should do. Do simple scenario planning. Imagine the challenges your team might confront. When your vision is clear, it’s more likely people will follow it.
Engage the people. Most people want to be part of something that’s bigger than they are. Help them understand how their work serves a purpose. Help them grow and develop.
No one is a leader everywhere and all the time.
Set your sights on leading well, not “being” a leader.
Leadership is about choosing direction and maintaining pace.
If you’re in a leadership position, people expect you to lead.
If you’re not in a leadership position, you can still step up and lead.
Master the context. Develop your vision. Engage the people.