Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Best Way to Lead is to Follow

Many people have this misconception about leadership.

They think leading others is directing the troops. Setting a vision , telling people what to do, and keeping everyone on track .While leadership is all of these, the real difference between good and great leadership is empowerment.

If the CEO of a company maintains complete control on all aspects of the business, he creates a legion of followers. People who will listen to direction but often do not leverage (or even exercise) their creativity and ambition. Then your people will have less confidence in their decisions and are less likely to take healthy risks that would help the overall organization. While there are a few examples of this working effectively (think Steve Jobs at Apple, or Larry Ellison at Oracle), many times the organization takes a turn for the worse when that leader is no longer in the picture (the verdict on Apple is still out).

Truly great leaders leverage the skills and talents of the group of smart people they build around them, but do so without needing to keep a tight grip on how goals are pursued and ultimately reached.

As a manager, empowering your people helps them grow (even when making mistakes, they ultimately will learn valuable lessons in the process).

The most effective way to empower your people is to follow their lead. As a leader, when someone is passionate about an idea of initiative, give them the opportunity to pursue it.

Doing this builds trust and loyalty. As a leader, if you are constantly saying “it’s my way or the highway,” you will eventually surround yourself with mindless drones, as  top talent will feel restricted and frustrated, eventually finding a place that offers them freedom. Yet when you empower your people and give them the chance to shine, they will work harder for you. That, mixed with the passion they have will create outstanding results.

When you consistently do this, your employees will become loyal to you and when the time comes when you need something to be accomplished they will come through in the clutch, even when the task seems impossible.

There is an “old school” mentality that fear and respect is what leads to results, but this is simply no longer true (if it ever was). Case and point, when building a team vision and goals, do you think that your employees will be more likely to strive for a vision they create, or one that you push down upon them?

Clearly you would be more motivated and invested if you had a say. A great leader facilitates and directs the creation of goals and vision, she doesn’t just demand adoption of it. She knows when to let her people take the lead and supports them when they do.

She backs them up, even when they fail; and builds them back up if they do. She knows when to push forward at the front of the pack, and when to push from behind.

Ultimately, the ability to empower those you lead, through following their lead will lead to ideas you never could have thought of on your own and results that you never could have accomplished on your own.

The true difference between a good leader and a great leader is not the results when she is leading the top, but the results that they continue to achieve long after she has gone. The main ingredient to fostering this greatness is empowerment, and the best way to empower is to know when to follow.

Remember: the greatest leaders don’t just lead, they follow.





This article was originally published in the Personal Branding Blog

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“Expect Delays”

An early morning a couple weeks ago I was headed to a work conference. It ended up that this conference wasn’t at the typical convention center or hotel. Instead, it was located at a retreat out in the woods. While scenic, the road leading there was naturally winding and heavily wooded.

At one point, where the road narrowed to one lane in each direction, there was one of those electronic signs on the side of the road that typically flashes a multi-part message. In this case, there was only one part to the message displayed. It simply read, “Expect Delays.”

From my experience, these signs usually offer justification as to why there would be a delay. It might read “Road repair ahead.” And then “expect delays” following. But this time I did not. The sign just said “Expect Delays.” Normally I would have passed by this kind of sign paying little attention, but in this case (maybe due to the early hour or the peaceful surroundings) I found a deeper meaning in the message.

Time and time again (in our careers and lives in general) we make plans. We think through all the possibilities and details, catching as many variations as we can think of. Despite this analysis and planning, we are often wrong. Things don’t go as planned.

In my career (and life), I have found that many times when “things not going as planned” it involves something taking more time than I would have expected. I generally get impatient, expecting faster results. This often leads to me giving up, or at the very least not give my 100% in following up and seeing things through.

Unfortunately, this feeling (and response) is something that plagues many millennials like me. We are used to instant gratification and feedback. We are used to getting things when we want them, how we want them. Success in your career (and life) just doesn’t work this way.

It is important for us to be patient when we embark on a journey to accomplish a goal. Whether it is something big like starting a company or something as simple as completing a project at work, realize that things won’t go as planned. Delays will invariably creep in, and if we aren’t ready for them, then we run the risk of giving up before we ever reach our goal.

While it is key to understand and anticipate delays, it is important to go one step further. We must build resiliency. The moment we get knocked down, we must get back up. Every delay that comes our way is an opportunity for another lesson that will help us avoid obstacles in the future (or at the very least will help us get over them faster).

We must also actively look for solutions. To beat these “delays,” we have to find ways to overcome them. Whether it be testing out a new strategy or flat out asking for help, it is better to fight through obstacles and delays instead of letting them happen to us.

As you drive down the road of your career, make sure to keep an eye out for delays. Often times there won’t even be a sign that tells you when or why they are coming. Remember not to just let these delays happen to you. Use them to your advantage. Take away key lessons, they will help you be smarter and more successful further down the road.

Just because you expect delays doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Meet these delays head-on; overcome them and carve out new roads of your own to explore.

What do you think about the “delays” that you face?




This article was originally published in the Personal Branding Blog

Follow my blog by clicking the link at the bottom right of your screen.I’d really appreciate it!

If you found this article useful, then please retweet and share on Facebook by clicking Like.

And please leave your comments and suggestions below

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