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I was talking with a prospective new client last week, and when I asked the question, “how do you think I can help you,” the response was simple yet so profound. The client said, “I need help transitioning from being more of a task master to a leader.”
I think most leaders in C-suite level positions struggle with that very thing. We spend our professional lives “growing up” in whatever business or organization, learning everything about how the organization works. When you have such intimate, working knowledge of how things work, it’s hard to transition from daily task mastering to leading your organization’s vision for the future.
I was doing some research as I was preparing to write this week’s blog, and I was curious to find out what business journal writers stated were the best qualities of a leader. The Harvard Business Journal listed “making decisions with conviction” as a key attribute. Forbes listed “sincere enthusiasm, integrity and great communication skills” as key attributes. All good stuff, and I firmly believe you gotta have all of these to be a great leader.
One thing I’ll add to the mix is that in order to do all of these things and do them well…a great leader must prioritize relationships. If you want a true pulse of what’s happening in your organization, start talking to your people. If you want to launch a new product or initiative, talk to your people about it.
The only way you’re going to be able to lead with conviction is to understand from your people what the impact will be. The only way you’ll be able to sincerely lead with enthusiasm and integrity is to talk to your people, solicit feedback and generate buy-in.
So, what’s the secret sauce for those leaders wanting to transition from a task-master to a visionary leader? Cultivating relationships. Yep, pretty simple. But, as you know…in order to be successful, you’ve got to be consistent and make relationship building a priority.
Two things you may want to consider….
For key members of your leadership team, schedule 30 minutes for a one-on-one meeting every 2 weeks or so. This meeting can be very casual, but the point is – you’re scheduling time and prioritizing them as a person. It means so much for key staff to have individualized time with the boss. I know you probably don’t think it’s a big deal…but, it really is.
Take time to get to know your people and understand what motivates and inspires them. I read the book, Peak by Chip Conley, and he talks about how great leaders differentiate themselves from others because they strive to help their employees reach what Maslow describes as self actualization. Great leaders tap into inspiration to guide employees to see their own greatness and capabilities…and, in turn, it’s great for the organization.
Spend some time and think about the members of your team that are not currently leadership-level. Who are those up-and-comers that have leadership written all over them? Who are those people that other staff value their work ethic or just like them in general? Who are those on the team that always have insightful and good things to say during meetings?
You may want to consider scheduling time to meet with those individuals regularly as well. That may be only once a month or more, depending on what’s happening and what you need. Again, the point is to build capacity outside the core leadership team and engage others within your organization.
Cultivating relationships helps guide your messaging and minimizes the risk of misinterpretation, helps with the overall organizational health, and will help you grow as a leader too. The other side benefit…you get to know all of the super cool and incredibly talented people on your team. That’s the real blessing of it all.