While learning and preparing for leadership roles is an inward exercise requiring self-reflection and personal discipline, the actual practice of quality leadership is entirely an outward exchange. This change in perspectives is often the biggest challenge for leaders, and it is what makes Leadership Rule #1 so simple, and yet so effective.
From the leaders’ perspective, leadership is about influence. Effective leaders seek to influence others by changing expectations, altering perceptions, and creating a motivational arena in which everyone within their reach is inspired to work towards common organizational goals. The most effective leaders focus on the development and growth of others, and in helping others reach their full potential. After all, it is the results of the follower that are important, not the leader.
From the follower’s perspective, the best leaders are those that inspire, lead by example, and put people above power. Followers can certainly recognize and respect a leaders ability to practice self-reflection and personal disciple. But in the end, followers don’t care how strong of a leader you are inwardly; they want to see where your leadership can take them.
Both of these perspectives have one critical element in common, and it’s not the leader.
In order to be effective, leaders must transfer the focus of their leadership from themselves to their followers. In the bigger picture of leadership, it is that transference that gives it value and endurance. Much like money, leadership can only gain in value when it is invested somewhere else.
The most effective leaders follow Leadership Rule #1, and return to it during those leadership challenges that require the very best of their leadership abilities. They understand that you cannot change expectations, alter perceptions, and motivate others unless you maintain the ability to influence them in a positive manner. When followers sense that your leadership decisions are made with other priorities, they will not trust you. Without trust, you will lose the ability maintain the positive influence necessary to motivate and inspire others, and you will have limited the value of your leadership investment.
Whether you are a brand new leader, or someone with years of experience, the next time you find yourself faced with a leadership decision, pause and remind yourself of this:
“It’s not about you.”
Follow Leadership Rule #1 and you will see that leadership that is focused on the follower can give you a double return on your investment. It will not only develop stronger followers, it will also develop a trusted and stronger leader.