“A truly great leader… will take their people places they would NEVER have gone on their own!” – David Long
A great leader is someone people look to and depend on for guidance and vision, who meets adversity head on, and who pulls others up to higher levels.
Now if you are starting to sweat a little because this seems like a lofty goal, that’s okay.
It is a lofty goal – which is why so few ever fully reach it!
But with the right attitude and action steps, you can become a great leader.
Take this time as an opportunity to improve yourself and reach for excellence.
Reflect on areas you can get better at, so you can increase and expand your sphere of influence.
Finally, use this workbook as a catalyst to increase your own personal skills and abilities so that you, in turn, can increase your employees’ efficiency and effectiveness.
Let’s get real
Leadership skills are one of those topics that everyone talks about—but few actually apply.
Are you determined to be different?
Becoming a great leader necessitates a burning desire to lead, and lead well.
Once you’ve made the decision, it’s time to build your foundation.
To become the best manager – the one increasing workplace efficiency, communicating effectively with your employees, developing and training others, and properly motivating those in the workplace – you first have to establish your own foundation for great leadership.
Everyone has the capacity to lead. And indeed, many are put into the position of leadership.
The difference between those that are successful and those that are not is simple: successful leaders lead well.
A simple word changes everything!
Anyone can lead
Your goal as a manager—in your specific position of leadership—should be to lead well for the greater goals of your team, and your company as a whole.
As a manager, you are the captain of your workplace vessel.
Your employees need you to be your best at the helm.
It’s time to use your talents and abilities to out-sail and out-perform those in the sea around you by acknowledging the areas that you can improve.
And then actually implement the following ideas.
Most people know what to do, but knowledge without application is useless.
So back to the question: “How does one lead well?”
First, understand that to be a leader, you have to have followers.
But what makes people want to follow someone?
Strong leaders believe in something bigger than themselves.
They embody their vision. And their vision is so powerful, vivid, and compelling, their followers are all in.
In your position as a manager, your employees “have” to follow you.
But what if they wanted to follow you?
Can you imagine the difference it would make?
People are motivated by joining causes that have the ability to make a substantial impact beyond their individual effort.
History is full of examples of people giving their heart and soul to a cause they believed in.
So the question is…
What would change if your followers believed in your vision?
In your mission?
Imagine for a moment what would happen if your employees jumped on board with your desire to gain higher customer satisfaction, amp up workplace efficiency, or to increase sales by x amount.
The result would be incredible!
And it’s possible.
If your employees can see the vision, how they fit into it, and respect how you conduct yourself in a position of power, they will want to follow and support you.
Are you someone worth following right now?
Would you follow yourself if you had the chance?
You must have a vision
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18.
Without a vision, your ship sails listlessly along the water’s edge with no destination—every team needs a vision, an end goal towards which everyone is striving.
A vision is the driving force behind what you as a manager are doing, and the goal to which your employees are working.
If you do not have a vision for your company, how can you expect your employees to put themselves fully into their work?
You may have the best employees in the world, but without a vision to work towards, your workplace will stagnate.
One of the truest examples of leadership and vision is found in wartime.
It takes a real leader with a powerful vision to persuade thousands of men to walk down a road that leads to almost certain death.
Just before battle, at the very gates of hell itself, the commander of the army often stops to give one last rousing speech.
It’s a speech with purpose: to give them courage, to steady their hand, and to ignite a fire of passion in their chests so they will not faint at the atrocities to come.
You know the moment
When William Wallace cries to his men, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”
Or when Aragon calls all men to fight in Lord of the Rings, “A day may come when the courage of men fails. But it is not this day! This day we fight!”
Or my personal favorite, Winston Churchill’s address to England in the face of Nazi Germany, “We shall go on to the end…we shall fight on the seas and oceans…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be… we shall never surrender!”
These speeches on the eve of battle serve as a distinct way of explaining the vision that rallies all followers to the cause.
And they all follow a similar pattern, a pattern that is helpful for all who decide to take up the mantle of leadership.
In all speeches, great leaders do 3 things:
- They acknowledge reality
- They ask for help and full dedication
- They paint the picture of victory
By acknowledging reality, leaders don’t sugarcoat the difficulties involved.
They know the cost, and they admit that there is a price to be paid for achieving the vision.
So instead of trying to downplay the dire situation, they focus their warriors’ attention on the glory of victory.
In other words, they give them something worth fighting for!
As a manager, acknowledge the reality of your workplace.
Be practical in what you and your employees can and cannot do.
If there is the option of failure, do not hide it, but also do not let it be the focus.
Be sure to acknowledge the current situation you are in.
If they perceive you don’t fully understand the present reality, they won’t be inclined to believe your future goal is realistic and attainable either.
Ask for Help & Full Dedication
Once you have acknowledged your current situation and given them the roadmap for success, ask for help and full dedication—these are your employees!
You already have your “army,” now is the time to let them know how necessary they are to fulfill the vision.
No great leader goes into battle telling his warriors how superfluous they are—instead, they focus on how each and every man is vital for the success of the mission.
Paint a Picture of Victory
The triumphs of victory should be woven throughout your motivating leadership style.
You should never skimp on emphasizing your final goal, the success for which you are all striving.
In fact, remind your employees of it often. Make it compelling, something each employee can get behind, a vision that they can be passionate about achieving.
It should be so clear, so distinct, so enticing, their fervor never runs dry!
As a leader in the workplace, you need to be implementing these 3 steps.
By integrating this pattern into your communication, you can garner your employees’ effort and dedication in a way you never have before.
These ideas are not just for use on the battlefield, they are tools to implement in cubicles, meeting places, restaurants, hotels, and wherever else you find yourself.
At the end of the day, people follow visionaries. So be a leader worth following by creating a vision worth achieving.
Selling the Vision
Now that you have a vision, you need to explain it in a way that persuades others to join.
First, you need to clarify the finish line.
How will they know if they have achieved the vision?
You need to provide measurable performance indicators for the success of your vision.
In other words, develop metrics to track your progress.
Do you want to increase output? Do you want to outsell the other divisions in your district?
Are you searching for greater efficiency in certain areas?
By developing key performance indicators, you provide your employees a clear roadmap to success.
Next, you need to create purpose for your employees.
They need a reason WHY they should care about your vision before they will decide to become a part of it.
Why should your employees get behind you in this new endeavor?
It breaks down into a simple question:
Why does this matter to THEM?
Once you have a vision, you invite others to participate in it by explaining WHY and HOW others can contribute. Show them how they benefit by achieving the vision with you!
You can have an amazing vision, but without proper explanation, you and your company will still be stuck in port.
Now, this step is NOT simply defining what the worker’s position includes—for any training manual or hiring personnel can do that.
It’s about communicating the importance of their job to the vision.
Everyone has something to contribute to your vision, but often they cannot see it unless you paint the picture for them.
Imagine every person wearing a big sign on his or her neck that says, “Make me feel important.”
So explain how they are needed
Show them how necessary their job is to their team’s success.
As a bonus result, your employees will adopt a team attitude as they strive for the same goal.
Jack Welch put it best, “The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.”
You need to do the same
Perfecting the balancing act between the big idea (vision) and all its moving parts (employees) is one of the clearest ways to become a strong leader.
The steps are simple, but they take work to implement.
But with practice, these leadership tactics can be as natural as breathing!
Overall, you must first develop/define the big picture and then break it down into how each individual can contribute.
Now that you have developed a vision, and a strategy for achieving it, take a step back and ask yourself: Am I passionate about my vision?
Great leaders believe so strongly in their vision, they exude a charisma about it that is captivating.
To launch your position as a leader past mere vision and implementation, you must find a passion for your work.
Passion is what drives endurance.
It pushes you to keep going through long days, monotonous paperwork, and failure after failure.
Passion is what refuses to give up on the vision, despite insurmountable odds against it.
You need to embody passion to reach your full potential as a manager.
A vision without passion is a waste to your company, to the workplace, and to individuals—an overall loss of effort.
So find a passion for the job you are doing!
If you cannot think of one thing in your job that you can be passionate about… You aren’t trying hard enough.
Finding something to be passionate about is as easy as enjoying what you’re good at or what makes you smile at work.
Abraham Lincoln said it best, “Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
It is the same way with passion.
Find something you enjoy and add some passion to it!
So whether it’s naturally right in front of you or you have to dig to find it, now is the time.
Find the passion you are lacking.
And if you are not finding anything good to be passionate about, perhaps you need to change your attitude.
When you care about what you are doing, your employees will come to care about what they are doing.
When you have a passion behind your vision and purpose, it permeates the attitudes of those working under you.
Passion, work ethic, and attitude all flow from the top.
So set the tone for your workplace!
There are many things in life you have no ability to change.
However, attitude is not one of them.
You have the power to change the attitude of your office, of your business, and of your employees— and it all starts with you.
Zig Ziglar’s famous quote says it perfectly, “Your Attitude, NOT your Aptitude, will determine your Altitude.”
How high do you want to go?
If you want to rise to the top of your office, of your business, of your field—you must get your attitude in order.
Its importance cannot be overstressed.
Your attitude directly impacts the work ethic, character, and tone in your work environment.
If you want honest employees, be honest.
If you want good customer service, be personable.
If you want hard-working employees, work hard.
If you want new ideas, create an environment of trial and error.
If you want dedication from your workers, be dedicated.
Set the standards for what you want out of those you are leading. And don’t make the mistake that so many leaders fall into – allowing yourself to look down on your employees.
Yes, you are the manager, but don’t give in to haughtiness.
Instead, lead with strength, commitment, service, and integrity.
The power of modeling right behavior is seen at a young age.
Robert Fulghum stated such in his admonition to parents, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
Managers often complain that their employees don’t listen to them.
While this may be true, it’s more important that they are watching you!
What do they see?
Cultivate the attitude you want in your workplace in yourself first.
Be the best employee you want, and others will follow suit.
Now, if the topic of attitude strikes a nerve within you, if your kneejerk reaction is to say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or “I’ve always been this way” or “this is just the way I am.”
Well, I have some good news for you! It only takes twenty-one days to change the pathways in your brain—TWENTY ONE!!
Not only is that incredible, it is some incredibly good news for you!
Twenty-one days to start implementing new techniques and new ideas.
Twenty-one days to begin your journey as a better leader.
Twenty-one days to cultivate a better attitude.
Attitude? You ask. Yes, you can change your very own attitude.
John Maxwell says,
“Successful people understand that attitude is a choice—and that includes enthusiasm… Positive people are positive because they choose to be. If you want to be positive, upbeat, and passionate, you need to take responsibility for being that way. … So how do people who don’t feel enthusiastic engender enthusiasm? One of the best ways is to think about all the positive aspects of your work. Believing in what you do and focusing on those positive beliefs will help you to act and to speak positively about what you’re doing. That helps to spark the fire of enthusiasm inside you, and once that starts, all you need to do is to keep feeding the flames.” (p.75- 76 From “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player” )
Isn’t that awesome?
Not only is it amazing that you can change your attitude with a simple decision, but it ties directly back into having a vision, developing purpose, and stirring up passion in your workplace.
If you find that the environment in your workplace is a complete drag, demeaning, or worrisome—take a step back and ask yourself: Why?
What attitude am I encouraging with my own?
Great leadership comes full circle.
Once you sit down and think about what attitude you are promoting as a manager, it’s easier to ask the first question of leadership: “Am I someone people want to follow?”
If you aren’t, you can be. Decide to become a leader worth following.
Take the actions necessary.
Live your vision, embody your passion, and cultivate a winning attitude.
You are capable of far more than you imagine!
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