Leadership is changing faster than most people can keep up. It’s changing because people are changing and so is our world view.
Leadership of the ’80s is dead. It’s no longer left to military members and CEOs. A generation of leaders has arrived to the show – and they’re ready to play ball.
Our definition of leadership has shifted slightly in the past several years. Part of this is due to the large growth in leadership development, and the access to such material. But the most amazing reason this has happened is because we are adapting.
A Generation Has Seen Failure – And They’re Tire Of It
A generation is realizing each day that, to be successful, you have to be exceptional. What you are exceptional at is less important than just being exceptional. It doesn’t really matter what. If you’re exceptional at something without a market – you create a market. If you’re exceptional in a saturated market – you blow all of the competition out of the water because the other’s are not exceptional.
Seth Godin says, “Be the best in the world at what you do.”
It’s not longer about getting in with a company and riding the coat tails of those above you for 15 years and then becoming a Vice President. This is neither satisfying, nor does it work for many people at all. But leadership on a small scale? It works – and it’s what we need.
Exceptional Work Comes From Exceptional Training
As an Army Officer my first job was direct supervisor of 28 people. These people ranged from 18 years old to 46 years old and experience levels of 6 months in the Army to 18 years in the Army. For a 24 year old with no real job experience this was intimidating – but it’s also motivating. These people depend on your leadership. Your decisions. And your actions have real consequences.
When the stakes are high it weeds out those who can’t compete. Leadership is like football training camp. It’s fast paced, tiring, exciting, will teach you more than you thought possible, and will leave your sore for weeks. But it’s worth it.
Evolution Is Real – Evolve Your Practice
Leadership as we know it is dead – unless we know it as an evolving practice. It will never be something we can learn once and move on. It takes years and years of experience to become the leader you want to be, because you can always improve. But that doesn’t mean it has to take years for you to become a good leader.
5 Tips For Leading Better Today
You have to listen to those around you. Not necessarily act on every request, but listening teaches you about your people. You gain insight you will never get from simply asking them to act.
You have to follow those above you well. Being an example of how to follow may be just as, if not more, important that actually leading your people. Setting the example of following gains their trust, and models the actions you expect from them.
3. Don’t tell people to do things, ask them.
This is tough if you’re not into asking people at the moment. It may take some time to make the switch. But if you spend the time to develop a relationship where asking instead of telling is the norm. You’d be surprised how much more effective it would be.
4. Learn who your people are
This doesn’t just mean learn their names. Learn where they are from. Why they work for you and the company. How many kids do they have? What are their goals in life? This will serve two purposes – (1) it will build a relationship and let them know you genuinely care, (2) it will give you insight into your people and who has aspirations and who is simply surviving.
5. Make a change now
If you aren’t happy with your results, waiting until tomorrow isn’t going to change anything. Results only come around with action. Take action and make yourself the best leader you can be. Be exceptional at leading, because it’s the skill that no one can ever have a monopoly on.
“Be the best in the world at what you do. This is easy if you’re willing to say what you do isn’t for everyone. Doing this changes the size of your world. You can be the best. Just do it.” -Seth Godin
Use what you have to become exceptional. Learn along the way and change the world. If you don’t, you will regret it.
Photo credit: Flickr/Bryan Mathers