We all know that leadership is something to be demonstrated through the right behaviours and not a position you are appointed to. Of course this is absolutely true and we have in every role of responsibility for others, the need for leadership. This call to responsibility cannot be neglected, rejected or avoided; it is your job.
There are many facets to this key role that determines the success or failure of not just teams but of organisations, cultures and countries. Each of which needs to be drawn upon and brought to the forefront of activity at the right moment.
There are three elements of leadership though I’d like to focus on in this short series. In my opinion these are the elements that have a significant impact on whether someone is valued as a true leader or purely as another link in the chain of command and organisation. The real challenge is that very often these are the three which are least prevalent in a leadership population.
The three areas I would like to focus on are energy, purpose and the ability to make wise decisions. Each of these elements should always include engagement of our people – that goes without saying. If we don’t take people along with us, then unfortunately we are merely a beacon of light, so dull that it leaves those we lead in uncertainty and darkness with a lack of clarity about who they are working for and how they can really add value.
My focus this time will be on energy.
Energy as a leadership responsibility
I recently returned to the UK on an overnight flight from the UAE. We luckily had optimal routing and the flight only took 6 1/2 hours. After 30 minutes to get to altitude it was time to get as much sleep as possible prior to leading our businesses team meeting the next morning. After only three hours of sleep, a well-meaning cabin crew member woke me for some breakfast. With still three hours to go.
So straight to our Head Office it was time to lead the meeting. Not only after little sleep that night, but also very heavy days of work into the late evening while I have been away.
We had a visitor in the meeting that day who commented about the level of energy of both myself and the team. My response was “it’s my job”. This wasn’t said in a resentful way, it was a choice that I had made to be a leader. It was a choice that I took that day to have the energy I needed to bring to the meeting in order to help us drive forward our success.
Every single day that we engage with our team we need to have energy. I’m afraid it’s a very short sighted leader who believes that they cannot bring energy themselves and yet still expect their team to deliver results with the energy that is required. It doesn’t take Einstein to come to that realisation.
Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting you need to bounce around the office like my favourite Winnie the Pooh character (Tigger) to get through every day. But if you come into your office, lead a web meeting or conference call and appear without the weight of the world upon your shoulders, you can expect your team to have the focus they need to have in order to help you deliver the results that you are supposed to be leading.
The question is though, how do you maintain that energy? How do I make sure that I can engage as a leader with focus, energy and resolve?
There is another fundamental truth here and that is that we will struggle to lead the energy of others if we cannot lead ourselves to have that energy. So the first focus is to lead ourselves. But what does leading ourselves really mean? The definition is very similar to that which we use for the leadership of others. Creating purpose, clarity and progress towards a shared goal. Which provokes the question what is your purpose? And what are you doing to achieve it?
Fulfilling personal needs and aspirations
Quite simply, we feel more motivated and energised when we are achieving small and consistent steps of improvement towards our personal goals, needs and aspirations. So if we want to have the energy every single day to be the leader we need to be, then we need to be willing to take one step closer to what is important to us personally every day.
It often feels that as a leader we have the weight of not just our world, but our colleagues on our shoulders and when we feel this weight of responsibility, the first thing that gets neglected are our personal needs and aspirations. But if we can take small steps to fulfil our personal needs it has an immense impact on our ability to energise those we lead to fulfil their needs and the needs of our organisation.
I have found that we feel most energised when we feel motivated, because we are achieving goals or small stepping stones that are taking us closer to our personal needs and aspirations. If we can each do one thing each day that takes us closer to the things of the most value or importance to us, it has a huge impact on the energy we have within ourselves and we share externally with those that we lead.
The first thing we need to identify is what those aspirations are. At this stage they are not goals. These are more the drivers; the value of the things that determine our behaviour. Or should determine our behaviour, however they often get put to the back burner for the sake of eating all the needs of others and circumstance. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t do all we can to help others succeed but we need to start with ourselves to make sure we are in the right state of mind to be of greatest value to others.
That aspiration may be as simple as better health. It is important then to define what better health means to you – remember that how you define health may be very different to the way that others define health. My Aunt who was an ultra-runner has a very different definition of health to me and her measures of success far exceed even my imagination!
Then set a very smart goal that will help you get closer to that aspiration. Remember; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.
When you are clear about what the goal is that will take you closer, break it down into individual small activities that will help you get closer to it. The question is; what would you do each day to take you one step closer to what you want to achieve or who you want to be? Make ‘me’ your most critical activity every day.
In fact, if the first thing you do every day takes you one step closer to who you want to be, even if you have to get up slightly earlier to do it, I guarantee you will have more energy. Your personal passion will be ignited and this passion and energy will immediately begin to impact those around you positively.
Remember you lead the culture of your team and your organisation. If you want to lead others, you need to start by leading yourself. Don’t under estimate the power that your energy and passion brings to those who you lead. It is one of the three fundamental and often neglected qualities that true leadership brings that makes a significant difference to your people and in turn makes work and life more fulfilling for you.
Next in the series I will focus on purpose. “What we choose to do, as human beings, is determined by how we feel about what we know; not just what we know.” How do we connect with the feelings of our teams through defining a clear purpose and engaging their passion.
Remember leadership is a journey that begins, but never ends. It requires focus, thought and responding to it as responsibility and opportunity every single day. So make leadership part of each day for you…and for those you lead.
You can read the second part in the series, focusing on purpose, here.
You can read more insights from OnTrack International here.