“Long before empowerment was written into the popular vocabulary, exemplary leaders understood how important it was that that their constituents felt strong, capable and efficacious.” Kouzes & Posner, The Leadership Challenge
It’s the advice no one gives you on day one. Or, day 1000.
It’s more than advice. It’s your mission.
Early in our career our focus is on the individual staring back at us in the mirror. We’re preoccupied with engineering our own success.
And then at some point, some boss decides to make us responsible for the work (and career steps) of others. Everything has changed, yet all too often, we continue to smile back at the increasingly successful person in the mirror.
It’s time to shift the view.
It’s not easy to move from a self-focused professional to someone who suddenly is measured by the success and growth of his or her team members.
Recognition is the first step. Too bad it’s a step that many team leaders and functional managers never make. The urgent and the urgent unimportant distract them from their rarely or never-discussed mission of strengthening others. People become tools to make numbers and complete tasks.
In reality, people are the instruments of creativity, innovation and sustainable success.
6 Helpful Reminders for Your Mission to Strengthen Others
1. You must break the mirror you’ve been staring into looking for signs of success. It’s not about you. It’s what you can do to support the learning and growth of those around you.
2. You need to change your measure of success. You will be successful if your team members feel “strong, capable and efficacious” as Kouzes and Posner share in the quote above.
3. “Strengthening Others” isn’t code for being soft. On the contrary, it comes through holding people accountable, pushing them beyond their perception of their capabilities and providing experiences that lead to experimentation, occasional failure and frequent learning.
4. Remember: teach, don’t tell. The leaders who get this right are teachers first and bosses second.
5. If you fail today, you can fix it tomorrow. There’s no expiration date on this mission.
6. See number 5. You will fail many times. This is hard work.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
At different points in your life, you’ll shift your own personal definition of success. The day you gain responsibility for the work of others is one of those points.
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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.