One of the reasons I’m excited about my new book, The Heart of Leadership, is my belief it can help a lot of leaders whose careers are stalled. Granted, the reasons leaders struggle can be multi-faceted. In some cases, a leader's challenges are out of his or her control – I get that. However, most often, I believe leaders make their own future.
Here’s the basic premise: as leaders, we control our readiness; others control our opportunities.
I know for some of you, this may be discouraging. It shouldn’t be. In my experience, our organizations, and the world at large, are starving for the right kind of leaders. When you and I become that type of leader, opportunities will be abundant.
The question we need to be asking is this… what do we have to do to be ready for those opportunities? That’s really what the book is all about. Here are a couple of specific things we can do…
Think others first. This is perhaps the most telling leadership character trait. It is at the heart of what is required to be a leader people want to follow. The way Ken Blanchard and I talked about this idea in The Secret is by asking a question:
Am I a serving leader or a self-serving leader?
If you get this one wrong, the other talents and skills you bring the to table will be irrelevant. People want to follow leaders who put others first. If our motives are questioned, our leadership will be questioned or even dismissed.
Depending on your orientation, this advice may seem exceedingly difficult. The truth is, most of us, deep inside have self-serving tendencies. We must learn to keep those feelings, emotions and intentions in check. We must cultivate the ability to put others first. To do this is a life-long pursuit. Start today. Try to add value to others at every opportunity. Over time, your heart will begin to change.
Learn to lead. This is outside the scope of the new book, but it is still critical. The heart of the leader matters, but so do skills. If you and I can’t master the basic skill set of leadership, we shouldn’t be given opportunities to lead. The good news, lack of skills is not what derails most leaders – skills are too easy to learn. My advice is to always keep skill development on your radar, always looking to close critical skill gaps.
There are clearly more things we can do to become a leader people want to follow. I’ll continue to write more about some of them in the days ahead. For now, work to think others first and learn to lead![GLS_Shield]