Whether you are in a pivotal role of organizational leadership or you are leading a household of budding personalities, there is one thing we can all agree on: Our nation needs improved leadership.
By now, you have heard about the meaning of leadership from the perspective of a key support staff member as well as the leadership philosophy of a natural leader. Each are deeply valuable perspectives and provide insight for those in a position of leadership today.
However, what do we do when we find that there is a lack of personal leadership within our communities or organizational leadership within our infrastructure? Where do you turn when there is a leadership vacuum and members of the community are calling out for someone to fill this need?
The responsibility, inevitably, falls to our existing leaders to nurture a new generation of leaders to carry us into the future.
As a young entrepreneur, I was – admittedly – a bit arrogant. After serving as a manager within my first company and growing through the ranks quickly to a director position at the age of 29, I thought I had it all figured out.
I learned quite a bit in a short period of time and had a resume bursting with impressive experience. Over the course of my career, I had put teams together and managed staff members, many of whom were older than I was at the time.
However, I eventually learned that my experience and breadth of knowledge was no where near where it needed to be. Until I reached an advanced level in my professional career, I had to bump through much of my personal development on my own largely because there was a lack of strong professional leadership.
Unfortunately, I am not alone in that experience. Part of the reason many of today’s entrepreneurs are unafraid of failure is because experience – or the consequences that come from a lack of it – is a form of leadership. Growing from high school to college, nobody taught me how to balance a checkbook or grow my credit. Those were minor (though important) things I had to stumble my way through.
For those in positions of leadership, many had to do the same. An individual excels in her job, gets promoted, gets promoted again, and by the time they are in an organizational leadership role, they cannot handle leading people well. If the ability and desire to grow leadership skills does not come from within, we end up with leaders who were never trained how to truly lead.
By the time I hit the director level in my first company, I knew I would not last long if I did not treat the development of my leadership abilities as a discipline. Thankfully, I was imbued with a natural desire and hunger for improving as a leader.
In a moment of humility, I realized I do not always have the best ideas. Furthermore, I could only rise to the level of the people I surrounded myself with. While many people in a position of organizational leadership assume this means they need to surround themselves with higher-level leaders to continue to rise, I have learned that people on my own team – those who I serve as a leader – often possess important skills, qualities, and ideas that I continue to learn from.
If you are hanging around strong leaders or seeking out strong mentorship, that is how you develop and grow. I am also a firm believer that there is strength in the knowledge that you can learn some of the most valuable life lessons by learning from those who surround you.
In that way, learning to lead can develop from a sort of social osmosis – yet it requires open-mindedness, trust, and faith in those who have knowledge and experience beyond your own, no matter what their job title may be.
Though leaders are often looked up to as the ones staff-level employees are meant to serve, I believe in taking the opposite perspective. As a leader, I am here to serve my staff above all else. At the same time, I am also here to create vision, to provide direction, to hold strong to our core values, and to ensure my staff’s needs are well met.
Recognizing when there is a gap in needs requires building strong relationships with each staff member. At John Lynch & Associates, we make intentional decisions to spend time with our staff, listening closely, and assessing where each person has desires for growth.
Even when a staff member does fall short in some areas with a client or misses the mark on an internal project, we serve by coming alongside them and saying, “Hey, maybe you could use some help here and here’s why.”
Ultimately, effective leadership relies on building healthy relationships that are based in accountability, empathy, and understanding the goals, desires, and skills of your people.
Yes, I believe our nation needs more effective leaders. Yes, I believe existing leaders need to be more intentional about grooming future leaders. However, not everybody wants to be a leader – and that is OK.
Some people are doers. They thrive on the completion of tasks and in supporting others. There are different levels of vision and strategy that are required for various levels of work and we all need different levels of leadership at different times.
For those who do stand out as individuals who strive for organizational leadership roles, we as mature leaders must take care to support them in their journey. This means teaching aspiring leaders:
1. Humility and servanthood
2. How to understand the big picture
3. Understanding and responding to team needs
4. Strategy to create a vision of where you want to go
5. Effective communication skills
6. The importance of modeling behaviors you want to teach others
7. How to pass the baton forward by grooming the next generation to be leaders in their own time
As leaders, it is our duty not only to lead those we serve, but also to lead the way in creating the next wave of leaders.
Did you catch Part 1 and Part 2 of my team’s leadership series? Reach out to let me know your thoughts. Together, we can bring strong leadership to the forefront and advance healthcare while growing future leaders.
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