Each week, I respond to a question from a reader. In doing so, by default, I’m giving advice. I understand the risk inherent in this –I don’t know your situation. So, rather than offer direct advice, I’ve often deferred to sharing my personal experience or best practices I’ve learned from others. Today is different. The question I’ve been asked to answer is this: What advice do you have for me as a younger leader?
Okay, without knowing your context, I’ll offer some advice that I feel is universally applicable for leaders regardless of circumstances. I hope you’ll not be disappointed; you’ll see nothing new here from me. These are the themes I’ve been writing about the last 18 months.
Decide what you believe about leadership – What is your teachable point of view on leadership? It’s important for at least two reasons: What you believe will impact what you do. I suggest you be deliberate and thoughtful in formulating your opinion. Second, you will have the opportunity to teach others, either formally or certainly informally; you need to be prepared.
Maintain a servant’s heart – I’ll be writing extensively about this in the weeks to come. The big idea behind my new book, The Heart of Leadership, is that if your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills. If you really can’t get excited about serving those you lead, your leadership journey will always leave you feeling unsettled or unfulfilled.
Build the strongest team you can – There are several reasons I’m a huge fan of teams… First and foremost, teams get better results than individuals. Teams create the opportunity for rich, genuine community, and teams bring out the best in people. Also, I believe a team structure can multiply the capacity of a leader and the organization. If an emerging leader wants advice from me, I have to include, learn to build a team.
Learn to communicate – Leaders must do many things well to be successful; that goes without saying. However, my advice for any leader seeking competitive advantage and heightened levels of effectiveness has to include communication. I encourage you to think about this broadly – interpersonal communications including listening, public speaking, writing, and as I wrote about a few weeks ago, learn to make your ideas visible. Excellence in communications is the best way I know to turbo charge your leadership journey.
Never stop growing – Growth is the leader’s fountain of youth. Our capacity to grow determines our capacity to lead. You and I must become predatory about learning. Someone challenged me on this recently and said, “That’s easy for you, you’re probably a natural learner.” Nothing could be further from the truth – you can ask my teachers in high school. They would paint a vastly different picture of me. What actually happened, I had to learn how to learn – it was fundamentally a choice.[GLS_Shield]
What advice do you have for other leaders?
Mark, I would remind young leaders that their leadership starts NOW. They can lead today from where they are. They don’t have to wait until a title or position is conveyed. Everyone can lead right now.
I would also suggest that young leaders find a trust mentor. Someone who will learn WITH them and share their leadership journey. #LeadWithGiants
Mark, I think this sums up pretty well what you’ve always been about. I also agree with Dan: leadership starts now, no matter who you are or what your role is.
The last sentence under “Maintain a servant’s heart” is powerful.
I might add “Lead yourself first” – create clarity of vision & values for your life. Engage and inspire yourself. Become more responsible. Become more honest. Become more courageous. You lead you.
I remember all too well being being very interested in leading others early in my journey!
Thanks for the great blogs.
Thanks, Jonathan. You are correct. Lead yourself first is critical. I’ve often said, self-leadership is the hardest leadership of all. I’m still working on it myself! Thanks for taking time to comment. Please let me know how I can serve you in the future. Mark
Mark, Thanks for answering these questions! I agree with these, especially the last one about never stop the growth/learning. This is where many good leaders fail to become great leaders…they get to a point of success, and then assume they know all they need to know. It’s the curse of knowledge. So I couldn’t agree with you more on this point of never allowing yourself as a leader, no mater your level, to stop growing/learning.
Thanks, Keith! Life-long learning is the fountain of youth for any leader. If we keep growing, so can our influence and our impact. Please call on me if I can serve you in the future. Mark
I agree with the other two comments and would also add this: test your leadership abilities in a volunteer environment. Remember that true leadership is much more than your title as manager, supervisor or boss. If you are good at leading at church or in a civic organization or on a special project, chances are great that you’ll do well in other leadership positions. In the volunteer environment, people choose to follow you—they aren’t required to as if you were their boss and had very little choice in the matter.
Other advice that has helped me: get to know your team and their work. You don’t need to do their work for them or become an expert in the work necessarily. But you need to know enough about what they do so you can position them for maximum success.
Encourage them to develop their strengths and not spend huge amounts of time developing on stuff that isn’t a liability for them. Don’t go on a search for weaknesses that don’t matter. Not all weakness are going to hurt the employee or the company. So give them meaningful development and training.
Great advice,Scott. Thanks for sharing it. I can think back to all I’ve learned over the years leading in a volunteer capacity. You are correct, it is different and it can be exceedingly difficult. However, it is an outstanding classroom for leadership. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark
Dr. Hendricks challenged us to find a Jethro and a Jonathan…, truly blessed to have them in my life as we serve Him. Both love and lead by example, we all remember its NOT about US!
Most young leaders are full of fire. One thing I have learned is that there are few hills worth dying on. You must look at everyone’s point of very and be willing to compromise. In order to lead someone must be following. After all if no one is following you are just taking a walk.
Great wisdom, Tad. Thanks for taking time to join the conversation! Please call on me if I can serve you in the future. Mark