10 ways to be a better leader.

MIchael Hyatt recently quoted Tony Morgan on a post titled “10 Easy Ways to Know You’re Not a Leader“. At first I was very interested, and then I realized that the post was really pretty disappointing.

You see, it’s really pretty easy to explain to people how to tell when things are bad, when they’re not a leader, how to tell they’re not getting it, etc. In fact, I think if you removed all the blog posts out there that had “How to tell…” in the subject, some blogs might not even exist. Yep, I’ve even done it myself.

Anyway, as I read the post, it occurred to me that the intent was less to help folks become leaders than to explain to those who would be leaders why they aren’t cutting it. I can well understand the urge, but wouldn’t it be better to teach than bitch?

So, if asked, my eleventh item on this list would be “You like to point out what folks are doing wrong, because it’s a heck of a lot easier than showing them how to do it right.”

Better yet, convert the list to something like “10 ways to be more of a leader.”

Here’s the original list, along with my conversions:

1. You’re waiting on a bigger staff and more money to accomplish your vision.

Let’s make that: Show what you can do with what you have, and use that success to get more. You’ll never have everything you want, so get going in whatever way you can, and always communicate two things: What’s been accomplished, and how more could be accomplished with more resources.

2. You think you need to be in charge to have influence.

You don’t have to be in charge to have influence, and being in charge is a huge distraction anyway. Instead, develop a clear vision, learn to communicated it with speed and clarity, and do exactly that every chance you get. Influence is about having a good sensible plan and repeating it to those who need to adopt it.

3. You’re content.

Don’t be content. Exceeding expectations is what will set you apart. The key thing to remember is that it’s not always about giving more of what was requested, sometimes it’s giving what was asked but using less to do it.

4. You tend to foster division instead of generating a helpful dialogue.

Sometimes it will seem like the purpose of business is to drive each other crazy with misunderstandings, obstruction, and other politics. But success comes from getting people aligned, not from keeping them distracted. I believe that this is one of the hardest things for anyone to do consistently.

5. You think you need to say something to be heard.

Honestly, it’s hard not to see this statement as condescending and trite. I suppose what’s meant is that you have to lead by example. It’s not always what you say or write that will matter, but how you deal with problems – like situations in #4 above.

6. You find it easier to blame others for your circumstances than to take responsibility for solutions.

Nothing feels better than explaining, in detail, all the things that have made life difficult. Because it feels so good, there’s no shortage of people who can do it, and thus folks don’t need to be paid to do it. Like to the adage says, if it feels good it’s probably the wrong thing to do. Instead, take each obstacle in turn and find a way around it. As you consider each one, each time you start to tell yourself that you’re stuck because…imagine the because doesn’t exist. Forgiveness is easier to get than permission.

7. It’s been some time since you said, “I messed up.”

Hiding your mistakes is like planting land mines at the end of your driveway. It’s not if you’ll get burned, but when. Admitting your mistakes, along with what you’re learned, will get you more attention from good leadership than almost anything else. If it doesn’t, you need to find a new place to work.

8. You’re driven by the task instead of the relationships and the vision.

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Complete a task by using people with no foresight, and you’ll be successful that day. Complete a task by building relationships and communicating the vision, you’ll build success for the future as well as today. You’ll also save yourself a lot of work down the road.

9. Your dreams are so small, people think they can be achieved.

This is nonsense. Unreachable goals exist in the eye of the beholder and simply divide people. Saying that YOU believe they can be achieved doesn’t help much.

Instead, dream big, build a vision, and show people how it can be achieved. Their first reaction should be that’s rediculous, but if you don’t change their minds you’re going nowhere in a hurry. Break it down if necessary, but always be prepared to help overcome people brainstorm the obstacles. If you can’t do that, you’re not dreaming you’re fantisizing.

10. No one is following you.

OK, you’ve been diligently doing all of the above, and folks just aren’t following you. There’s only one thing you can do – talk to them and find out why. Your vision may be flawed, you may be expecting too much from the organization, or you might just not fit. But you’ll never really know until you ask.

Leadership attributes have become increasingly important in the workplace, which has caused MBA and masters in project management degree programs to offer a curriculum centered around leadership development.


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