Ever wondered how leaders inspire people to action? How do people build a great following for their cause? Simon Sinek offered some challenging thoughts on a talk at TED. (sound is not the best in the first few minutes, but worth the watch)
What do you think you could use from Simon’s talk?
As I’ve intimated in this post, we are sometimes underrated success enablers for others). It is important for us to think and act beyond ourselves. We need to intentionally empower others to advance. This post is about looking up to no ceiling.
I think I am one of the most fortunate people on the face of the earth! I’ve had the privilege of having countless people as examples on how to do life and lead, among other things. For my entire life I’ve been surrounded by people with a desire to not only see me succeed but exceed them. I’ve had and still have people who want to see me farther at this stage in my life than they were. I am extremely grateful. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized that there are other people who are also looking up to me. And, there are people around me that I am committed to seeing farther and better than me at the stages they’re yet to get to.
illustration by "i'll never grow up", flickr, (cc)
We have many labels for those we look up to for direction; coach, mentor, guide, advisor etc. Whatever name you have for these people, you need them. Not only that you need to be that person to someone else. True success is not self-seeking. True success is service to others. True success is helping other realize their dreams and potential greater than they ever imagined. Success is enabling others from your vantage point. Success cannot be success if it self-serving.
People refrain from being an enabling force in other people’s lives because they only look at their inadequacies. On the contrary, no matter how lacking we are or feel, we are never in a place where we cannot give to others. No matter how bankrupt you feel you can make someone richer. Wealth is not just material things. You have wisdom someone else is praying for. You have resources that you despise and have no use for that could be exceeding life changing for someone else.
While you feel you haven’t arrived, someone is desperate to get to where you are! Don’t undermine that! Sometimes people speak more highly of us than we really are and tell us how they want to be just like us. For a change, stop trying to fight it and correct them. Use that to inspire them to be greater than you. Tell them they can be better! Never get so caught up in growing and advancing yourself that you forget there are people that not only need but desperately want your heads up in getting where you are! Take a break from trying to get ahead and help someone get ahead too!
If you think about it long and hard enough you’ll realize that you often underrate yourself as a success enabler for others. Inspire and empower someone else today!
I work with a couple of different teams in different contexts. One of the teams of young people I work with a tenure of a year. We’ve just commenced training for this year’s team and I’ve got a lesson I think would be beneficial to leaders that lead with similar teams or on a project basis. It has to do with what I’d like to call ‘the remnant’. These are young people that have either served on the team in the most recent tenure or at some point in the past. The team members from the previous tenures often return the following year to serve as leaders on the new teams.
This is why I think ‘the remnant’ is important:
The remnant will constitute a solid foundation for the team serving in the new tenure. They can become the framework on which the new team can be established. When you have people that have walked the journey, it helps give security to the new team members. Just the presence of a remnant will give the team just being instated better confidence than if they were on their own. Sometimes confidence is the only thing separating achievement and failure. Ensure that you build a fair level of confidence in your team members; include a remnant in the mix.
As a “senior leader”(for lack of better terminology) or one ultimately responsible for the teams, it lightens the load. The remnant have already walked a journey with me and thus already have a better understanding of me and the way I do things. Thus they can help interpret cues from the senior leader for the new team members. It can be somewhat taxing and cumbersome to start off every tenure by first getting the new team members to understand me as the ‘senior leader’. The remnant help act “mediators” between myself and the new team members. They act as “buffers” for me by explaining things about me and my leadership style to the new team members based on the first encounter with me.
The starting point of any new team must be training. It is during the time you crystallize the teams mandate, communicate values and affirm their abilities to fulfill all this (assuming they’re on your team because you believe they can deliver). Post training i.e. the “execution phase” there are some unique instances that training does not always cover. Some things will only arise post training. I realized that there are things that the remnant can explain based on their experience, which may be more equipping than standard training. The fact that there is someone who can attest to having “walked the road” will help challenge the “it’s impossible syndrome”. It will be expedient for the senior leader to already have the remnant talk about the possibility before the team members start leaning to toward “it’s impossible”. This helps make goals or the vision being seen and accepted as possible. Thus, there are numerous mentors for the new team members, reducing load on the senior leader.
By virtue of experience the remnant can take on more responsibilities in both training and leading the new team members, lightening the load. This also creates opportunity for the new team members to better understand what is being communicated to them in terms of the mandate, values and vision of the team, as they may speak a language that the new team members may better understand than that of the senior leader.
Having the remnant means an opportunity to develop more leaders. Leaders do not merely exist to lead ‘followers’ but to multiply competent leaders. Having a remnant, (who were only team members in the previous tenure) now means senior leaders should have a good pool of developing other leaders, as they’ve had experience as followers. What better place to recruit leaders or students of leaders than from those you have embraced following in an exemplary manner!
The responsibility rests on the senior leaders or leadership to engage with the remnant and see that they are good stewards of the experience they would’ve acquired in the previous tenure. Whether it is a team with a stipulated tenure or you’re the senior leader on projects, it can prove worthwhile for you to employ a remnant.
I shared about the ghosts of my predecessors I encountered… In the previous post on this, I stated that I’ve not always been the pioneer but a successor. Learning to deal with some of the things we encounter as successors has a significant bearing on what our leadership in the new team or organization will be like. It determines to a great extent the level of our effectiveness and subsequent success. Today I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learnt dealing with them. (Remember to share your experiences and what you did to combat the ghosts of your predecessors. I’d love to hear them! )
Not That Way!: I’ve never taken over from someone who thought and did things exactly like me. It will be a miracle if ithappens! Where I’ve encountered methods being sacred I’ve magnified the vision. When you’re a successor at a place where methods are sacred, communicate the vision more than method. Exalt purpose over process. In the context of vision, emphasize that it is not about the way but the destination.
Processes & Direction: Where I’ve had to be a caretaker of systems or process I either did not like or agree with, I’ve been the best caretaker I could have. When you come in as the new leader, people ask themselves whether they can follow you and expect you to give them the reason to follow. Managing processes and transition from what was before you and your new direction is a litmus test. Take it well! How you manage or leverage process you don’t like in the now is a great testimony to your leadership in the future. It is the resume your new followers will look at more than the accomplishments you have behind you. Don’t merely take down things from the predecessor before you, transition them. Remember: you don’t only manage systems but people and they are a more valuable resource than systems!
Important: In the instances where I celebrated different values from my predecessor, I’ve learned to celebrate my values without bashing my predecessor. Once some values are closely tie to an individual, any deemed attack on those values tend to be translated as an attack on the individual. Make what’s important to you clear and leave the guy before you out of it! Never use statements like, “I know John liked things this way, but I prefer this way”. When you do this, you train enhance the ‘comparison game’ that’s already going on. The comparison to your predecessor can be subliminal or otherwise. Don’t feed it! What you want to do as a successor build into the future and not destroy the past! Make sure you resist this!
It was your fault!: Where I’ve been ‘blamed’ as the reason for my predecessors leaving, I’ve done nothing in response. Instead what I focused on was proving myself. I’ve never been in situations where this ghost was escalated to an extent where I had to directly address the people. However, I have been aware of undercurrents… You magnify what you bring attention to. In the context of this blame ghost ignoring the ghost worked for me.
Problems!: For every successor there are problems waiting! One of the things at the core of leadership is problem solving. Problems are also a normal part of a leader’s everyday life. With this ghost, I’ve sought solutions. Rather obvious right? There is one mistake in this category that I’ve made. It is a good thing to be optimistic as a successor. In fact, coming in with fresh eyes and mind may just be what’s needed in the organization or team to solve some problems. However, one of the things successors need to put in place as soon as possible is mentors. Sometimes the best wisdom is seeking counsel. The worst thing you could do to yourself is expect to have all the answers. Sometimes it will be more beneficial to admit to your ignorance.