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Why should anyone be led by you?

July 01, 2019DMT.NEWS

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At one time or another, every one of us is faced with a decision. Shall we lead or shall we follow? Leaders, much like parents, carry an enormous responsibility. It seems thankless or too hard. How can I get people to do something? you may ask yourself as you consider taking on a leadership role. As a parent of two strong-willed children, I can tell you: you can’t get people to do anything. They need to want to do it themselves.

So how can you engage employees, team members or your neighbors to get involved, be present, contribute? By doing what you expect others to do too. The old adage of do as I say, not as I do, does not apply (it doesn’t work in parenting either, if you seek to maintain even a modicum of credibility in front of the kids).

The Harvard Business Review recently published a series of insightful books under the motto: “How to Be Human at Work”. The six books are organized by category ranging from resilience, authentic leadership, empathy, happiness, influence & persuasion and mindfulness. The bottom line is this: show up as the human that you are. And being human means striving to be better than you were yesterday. If you do that, you will become the leader whom others will love to follow.

Smart leaders know that the best way to inspire people is to give them the freedom to become leaders in their own right. You don’t need a specific job title to be a leader. Whether you are involved in community service, a faith-based group or a work project, you can hone your leadership skills wherever you are. 

Ownership – have you ever been in a group in which no one feels a sense of ownership? They take on directives from “above” and execute whatever they are told. Morale is low and most team members watch the clock until quitting time. Imagine the difference: you are given a project with clear objectives that you yourself have defined. You receive the necessary resources with flexibility to add what you require to get the job done. The incentive is not only better pay, but also public recognition for your accomplishments. The team leader checks in with your group on a regular basis to assess your progress and to offer help where needed. How high would your ownership be then?

Creative freedom – Google is known for its flexible work style. Employees are encouraged to take as much time as they need and are encouraged to “search inside themselves” through a company-sponsored self-discovery program to ensure employees maintain a heightened sense of self-awareness. With that much support, how could you not jump out of bed in the morning with near-evangelical enthusiasm?

Communication – we learn more when we talk less. Active listening is a key component to great communication. When listening to your peers, do you count the seconds until it’s your turn to talk or do you listen intently without laying your own agenda on the speaker?

Over the summer I have also delved into other leadership topics: Sylvia Ann Hewlett writes about how to improve your leadership skills by investing in others in her new book The Sponsor Effect. It is about more than mentoring someone, which tends to be a short-term goal. Sponsoring involves a longer commitment as you guide that person over time in their professional and personal growth. Authenticity takes a lead role in Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones’ revised edition of Why Should Anyone Be Lead By You?, which offers a treasure trove of ways to be authentic with skill (meaning: dirty laundry belongs at the cleaner’s, not at the office, but honesty matters nonetheless). Change management is another topic leaders face. Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Oosten tackle this subject in Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth.

We never stop learning and these books have helped me understand that leadership is challenging, but not impossible. Even though my kids are grown, I still know one thing: being authentic ourselves encourages others to be the same. Walking your talk may not always be easy, but in all seriousness: what’s the alternative?

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This post contains affiliate links. The affiliate part helps me. The link part helps you. 

Self-Help
Subtitle: 
Leadership and the Complexity of Being Human
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The Power of Slow
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Leadership is challenging, but aren't we all natural-born leaders in some way? After all, we all lead our lives. These books can help us learn how to do it better.
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Reference: 

"How to Be Human at Work"

Authentic leadership: HBR emotional intelligence series. (2018). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Empathy: HBR emotional intelligence series. (2018). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Happiness: HBR emotional intelligence series. (2018). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Influence & Persuasion: HBR emotional intelligence series. (2018). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Mindfulness: HBR emotional intelligence series. (2018). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Resilience: HBR emotional intelligence series. (2018). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

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Boyatzis, R. E., Smith, M., & Oosten, E. V. (2019). Helping people change: Coaching with compassion for lifelong learning and growth. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Goffee, R., & Jones, G. (2019). Why should anyone be led by you?: What it takes to be an authentic leader. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Hewlett, S. A. (2019). The sponsor effect: How to be a better leader by investing in others. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.



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chohlbaum, Khareem Sudlow

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