Every great leader is on a journey - a long, never-ending quest to serve and grow. Have you ever given much thought to yours? If you have, and you are like most of us, you realize your path has been challenging, exhilarating and even frustrating at times, but it has certainly not been a straight line.
Chances are good your leadership journey could more accurately be diagramed as a swirl of loops, and tangled lines, a bird’s nest of celebrations and setbacks. It looks more like a Gordian knot than the carefully orchestrated, strategic plan you might have imagined when you began your career.
Acknowledging this reality, I still felt compelled recently to join countless others who have tried before me to make sense of this labyrinth of stops and starts, steps forward and back to create a macro picture of the typical leaders’ journey. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately…
I believe there are four primary domains in which leaders must ultimately demonstrate competence if they want to maximize their influence and their impact. Although circumstances beyond our control often mess with the natural order of things, I do believe there is a logical sequence of steps or stations in a leader's development. Here they are:
Lead Self – If you and I cannot lead ourselves well, we will always struggle to lead others well. It is a law of the universe. We cannot impart that which we do not possess. If I do not possess leadership character, it will be virtually impossible for me to muster the moral authority to call out the best in others. [tweet_box design="default"]If I cannot lead myself, it will forever be difficult to garner followers.[/tweet_box]
Lead Others – Some would pretend leadership is only an issue of character; they are wrong. Character is essential to sustained, successful leadership but insufficient alone. There are skills and competencies associated with leading well. Our followers deserve leaders who have the skills to lead.
Lead Teams – We live in a team-based world. Those who deny this deny reality. The complexity of our world demands the collective intelligence of our people. Teams, when well led, outperform individual effort. Leaders who want to thrive and help their organizations do the same must know how to build and sustain High Performance Teams.
Lead Organizations – Don’t be put off when you hear the term organization. You might assume I am talking only to the CEO. Every leader who is trying to lead even a modest number of people has the opportunity to shape his or her organization. High Performance Organizations harness the collective talent, passion and creativity of their entire workforce. As a leader, do you know how to do this? If not, you can learn.
As you look at these four stages: Self, Others, Teams and Organizations, you may be wondering: where’s the insight? I’m not sure, but I would ask you to consider the four stages as a diagnostic tool. Ask yourself, What’s next for me as a leader? And then, see if the four stages shed any light on how you might want, or need, to grow as a leader.
Although these four mile markers on a leader's journey have been the subject of much of what I’ve written about over the last four years, in the coming weeks, I’ll unpack each one with an emphasis on potential next steps to accelerate your own journey.[GLS_Shield]