According to Deliotte’s “Global Human Capital Trends 2016” report, today's organisations face a leadership gap. 89% of executives found the need to strengthen and improve leadership within their organisations. However, 56% said their organisations are not ready to meet leadership needs, and one in five (21%) have no leadership programmes at all.
In any event, expecting your organisation to develop you as a leader is rather antithetical to the notion of leadership. What these statistics tell us, is that those who are willing to develop themselves have an opportunity. Leadership requires heavy introspection. It is the understanding (and concession) of great leaders that their work must be executed, “under the microscope”. As such, when you climb onto the leadership stage, you're not just gambling company profits but also your hard earned credibility - which takes years to build and minutes to tear down.
If you believe you have what it takes to lead, the first step is to build yourself as a leader, from within. Here are 6 proven ways to build yourself into a successful leader;
1) Self examination
“No man is free who is not master of himself” – Epictetus
Only, when you examine your life do you get to know yourself and understand your motivations, values, weaknesses and strengths. Developing these personal insights, provides the foundation of all successful leadership.
Practical methods for self examination include performing "Socratic method" conversations with yourself. This involves starting with an (assumptive) belief for example “I don’t think I'm competent enough to be a leader” and asking continual questions until a contradiction is exposed. For example, “Why did you get your current job?” thereby proving the fallacy of the original belief. Tools like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory or DiSC personality assessment can give you clues about leadership qualities for your personality.
2) Nurture others
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much your care”
You need to recognise early on that your intellect is not going to be the thing that persuades people to follow you, it will be your humanity. Matt Fawcett GC of NetApp reflects that, the only reason he has been able to successfully lead, 70 people, in 15 countries and 23 cities globally, is by treating his role as that of a coach and mentor.
3) Outsource help
Truly developing yourself as a leader requires strictly objective input - sometimes we are too blind to see our own flaws. This means, allocating time and resources to attend leadership/career coaching sessions or lectures. Take a look, for example, at the work of leading coaches Joe Frederick’s and Charlie Swan – who presently train highly experienced CEO’s, it’s never too late to self improve. Just like you invest in property or your health, you should do the same in terms of money and resources for your career development – the same logic applies – you get out what you put in.
4) Refine your leadership presence
To quote my previous blog “How great leaders inspire a loyal following”, you need to start with “Why”. Once you understand why you are leading a specific area, you will know your audience and in turn, better understand how you want to be perceived by this particular audience. Presence is a blend of poise, self-control and style which all adds to your perceived credibility. However, different audiences will be persuaded by different styles. You need to know your audience well enough to gage when you’re “barking up the wrong tree” for example, British idioms won't go down too smoothly when pitching to your Asia team. Examine the previous leaders in your field, think about their style, how it resonates with you and how it motivated those around you. Think how you can make it better.
Leaders often fail because they gravitate to others like them. This insulates them from cutting edge ideas. To really bring success you need to lead your team onto new paths. Remember innovation occurs at social crossroads. You cannot, reasonably, be aware of every innovative idea, therefore surround yourself with those with differing viewpoints and you won't exclude yourself from opportunities.
6) Get to know your moral compass
You must know your moral “remit”. This will draw strict lines around what you will and will not do to pursue an objective. Without this you risk, amongst many things, straying so far away from your principles, when under pressure, that you resent who you have become when you step off the leadership ladder. It’s surprising what pressure does to people. Don’t become surprised by your own lack of internal strength. Lay your values on the table before you start leading and hold yourself accountable to them, every step of the way.